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Houston Jazz Festival “Message From Bu”

Sunday, October 25, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

October 25th 6pm CST

“Message From Bu”

Sunday, October 25, 2020
Streaming on NPR Live Sessions
Miller Theatre / Houston Jazz Festival

Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images LLC
Over 25 Grammys on the Bill

“Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.” –Art Blakey

Bu’s Jazz Messengers come to Miller Theatre to celebrate Art Blakey’s 101st birthday. This premier version of the Messengers is under the direction of Houston-native, TSU alum, and four-time Grammy winner Frank Lacy, and also boasts saxophonist Bobby Watson, trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, and bassist Curtis Lundy. Lacy, Watson, Ponomarev, and Lundy are all alumni of what is affectionately known as the “University of Blakey”. These journeymen all served under Art Blakey as Music Directors of the Jazz Messengers—a pedigree that uniquely positions them to bring this group of fire-breathing Hard Bop Master Musicians to the Miller Theatre.
Frank Lacy is the consummate “Jazz Artist”—a perennial poll-winner in several disciplines, a multi-instrumentalist, and an award-winning vocalist. He played with Illinois Jacquet’s big band in the early 80’s and a few years later became the musical director for Art Blakey. Lacy has had a long, beautiful career. Some highlights include having worked with big bands led by David Murray, McCoy Tyner as well as Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, and spending twenty years as a member of the Mingus Big Band.

Photo: Martin Phillips

Bobby Watson – Trained formally at the University of Miami, Watson proceeded to earn his “doctorate” – on the bandstand – as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The Messengers were frequently referred to as the “University of Blakey” having served as the ultimate informal postgraduate school for ambitious young players. Watson, whose credits are as long as your arm, is featured on more than a dozen Jazz Messenger recordings, the most of any of the Messenger ensembles. The gifted Watson became a much sought-after musician, working along the way with a potpourri of notable artists including but not limited to: drummers Max Roach and Louis Hayes, fellow saxophonists George Coleman and a younger Branford Marsalis, celebrated multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, and acclaimed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

Valery Ponomarev – The first major Russian jazz musician to make an impression in the United States, trumpeter Ponomarev has always had an attractive tone, a swinging style, and a strong interest in keeping the hard bop legacy of Clifford Brown alive. A Messenger from 1977-1980; he recorded nine albums with Blakey for such labels as Roulette, Timeless, and
Concord. Ponomarev has since freelanced, usually leading his own quintets and recording extensively for Reservoir.

Curtis Lundy is a double bassist, composer, producer, choir director, and arranger. Best known for his work as part of jazz-vocalist Betty Carter’s band, Lundy made his debut on the New York jazz scene in 1978. Over the years he has performed with an impressive list of musicians, including: Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, George Coleman, Clark Terry, Sam Rivers, Elvin Jones, Hank Jones, and Sonny Stitt to name a few.

“I am going to stay with youngsters. When they get too old, I’m going to get some younger ones.” -Art Blakey

All of 22 years old, percussionist and Houston native Jerome Gillespie fits the bill… and on the seminal chair! Pianist Michael Palma is a relative youngster, but a more apt moniker is a “Monster” as he his considered by his peers to be a genius.

Palma, a graduate of Berklee, has toured the world with the biggest names in jazz from Wynton Marsalis to Roy Hargrove. He is also an in-demand educator having served on faculty at the University of North Texas and The Dallas School of Music as well as conducting innumerable clinics and masterclasses.

The iconic jazz writer/historian/producer/educator, Ira Gitler, in his liner- notes on “Caravan”—arguably one of the greatest Jazz Messengers recordings—clearly articulates the essence of Art Blakey and his Messengers:

“There is technique galore …but you are much too concerned with what he has to say to stop and marvel at it from any academic standpoint.”

That kind of powerfully gripping message we find all-too-often missing from Jazz today, but Frank Lacy and this powerful group of hand-picked master musicians are one of those rare exceptions. If you are interested in experiencing the pleasure of seeing a true “Jazz Artist” at the top of his game then you must see Lacy in action as he leads this powerful group.
Lacy is a tough taskmaster that demands much of his fellow musicians, but more importantly he is a force-of-nature with a profoundly deep sense of humanity, musicality, integrity—not to mention chops, chops, and more chops!

We’re here to have a ball!” –Art Blakey
Join us online October 25, 2020 and “…have a ball!”

Carrol-Simmons-Sparks – Not since the inception of Texas’ most seminal jazz group, the (Jazz) Crusaders, has there been a homegrown band as unique as Carrol-Simmons-Sparks (CSS). Though their journey is quite different from the former, CSS have landed in their place to carry the torch of Lone-Star greatness. Rarely do we get to experience such a wealth of musicianship and style existing collectively in one musical group.

At the head of CSS is Houston native Shelley Carrol and his big “Texas Tenor” sound. That sought-after tone has been featured on recordings and in concert halls by artists like Sheryl Crow, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Kool and the Gang, Gregory Porter, and many others. Carrol also has five releases as a band leader and scores of other guest appearances.

Photo: JW Peine

Keyboardist Bobby Sparks II was a bit of a child prodigy and got his start playing in church in Corsicana, Texas. By his teen years he was already doing professional gigs in nearby Dallas-Fort Worth. This led to his over 20-year association with the gospel icon, Kirk Franklin. From there his versatility led to stints with the virtual who’s who in music. The list includes: Yolanda Adams, George Benson, Shirley Caesar, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Roy Hargrove, Lalah Hathaway, Marcus Miller, and many others. Bobby is an avid vintage keyboard collector and is one of the most sought-after session players in the music industry.

Mark Simmons is widely considered one of the most talented drummers on the scene today. After attending Berklee College of Music, he has recorded and toured with Zacardi Cortez, Kenny Garrett, Bobby Lyle, Joe Sample,

Snarky Puppy, and Kyle Turner. Mark also spent over a dozen years as the drummer for jazz legend Al Jarreau. His fiery yet sensitive style makes him a first-call player for both live shows and studio recordings.

CSS began as a trio but soon added bassist Justin McKinney to its touring show. Affectionately known as “Jay McK”, he has quickly made a name for himself in the R&B and jazz scenes. His credits include: Rick Braun, Chris Dave and Drumheadz, Monica, Ruben Studdard, and Liv Warfield. Jay McK is often called on to serve as musical director for live shows and tours. His sound and style can move seamlessly from solid bass grooves to show-stopping solos. I

Together, these four individuals make up one of the most soulful and entertaining groups of the millennium.

Performance Schedule 6pm CST

October 25th 2020 / Miller Outdoor Theater Streaming on NPR LiveSessions
*The actual link will be posted on NPR closer to the date of the event
Also please feel free to share our FacebookEventPage

6pm Carrol-Simmons-Sparks

Bobby Sparks, Organ; Shelley Carrol, Tenor Sax; Mark Simmons, Drums; Jay McK,

7:30pm Bu’s Messengers

Frank Lacy, Trombone; Bobby Watson, Alto Sax; Valery Ponomarev, Trumpet, Curtis Lundy, Bass; Shelley Carrol, Tenor Sax;Michael Palma, Piano; Jerome Gillespie, Drums
October 25th 2020 6pm CST / Miller Outdoor Theater
Also streaming directly from YouTube
HoustonJazzFestLive.com You will be directed to our YouTube Live Event page


Sunday, October 25, 2020
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm


Houston, TX United States + Google Map

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