Houstonians are reclaiming the city’s jazz history by putting on shows. Here are some top picks

Joshua RedmanPhoto: Wilkins Management

Earlier this year, trombonist Vincent Gardner and his wife, singer Belinda Munro, discussed the educational and outreach organization Jazz Houston before a concert they hosted featuring the music of Duke Ellington.

“We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what we’d like to do,” Gardner said.

Next month, they’ll continue to scratch the surface with the Bayou City Jazz Celebration, a celebratory gathering that honors Houston’s jazz past and present. Munro will sing works associated with Houston’s Anita Moore, a singer who sang with Ellington in her later years. Gardner, the organization’s artistic director, and Munro will be joined by the Jazz Houston Orchestra as well as pianist Helen Sung, a successful New York-based pianist who is also an alumnus of the High School for the Performing and Visual. Houston Arts.


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Da Camera presents SummerJazz 2022
With Joshua Redman, Pedrito Martinez, Jazzmeia Horn and Jalen Baker
When: August 19-21
Where: Cullen Theater and Market Square Park
Details: for venues and tickets, visit dacamera.com

The Houston Jazz Festival with Nellie McKay and the Cookers
When: 8 p.m. September 17
Where: Miller Outdoor Theater, 6000 Hermann Park Drive
Details: free; information on reserved seats on milleroutdoortheatre.com

Bayou City Jazz Celebration presented by Jazz Houston
When: 8 p.m. September 24
Where: Miller Outdoor Theater, 6000 Hermann Park Drive
Details: free; information on reserved seats on milleroutdoortheatre.com

This event is just one of many jazz shows and festivals taking place as summer slowly creeps its way out this year. The next few weeks offer paid and free shows, indoors and outdoors, featuring local talent and out-of-towners.

Miller Outdoor Theater hosts several of the shows, which guarantees top performers a free admission price tailored to the audience. Trumpeter Humberto Ramírez and saxophonist Tia Fuller share a bill Aug. 12 at The Miller.

A week later, the first big event: Da Camera’s Summer Jazz 2022 takes place from August 19 to 21. The event kicks off on August 19 with a free performance by fellow HSPVA alumnus, Jalen Baker, a rising star and dazzling vibraphonist. He put on a free show in Market Square shortly before Dallas jazz singer Jazzmeia Horn took the stage at the Wortham Theater Center for a paid performance. Summer Jazz this weekend also includes two performances – one free, one not – from Pedrito Martinez and Joshua Redman.

Redman’s show will mix past and present. Joshua Redman 3×3 reunites with the star saxophonist in a trio format with drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Larry Grenadier feeling the shining corners created by three iconic composers whose work has spanned over a century: Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter. Redman enjoyed immersing himself in their work.

“I loved all of their music at first, and I was drawn to the music on an emotional level, a spiritual level,” Redman said. “And also on a very personal level. Their music was so fundamental to the language of anyone who was serious about playing jazz. But it’s kind of functional listening, like doing homework. It’s been nice to come back to music “Usually we call a few songs, play the songs and rediscover them every night. Maybe it’s not like a “return to innocence” or something like that. But I liked m Engage with music where it’s less of a mission or a project. It’s more of just a joy.”

The Houston Jazz Collective is bringing back its Houston Jazz Festival, which takes place September 17, also at the Miller Outdoor Theater. This year’s event features Nellie McKay, who for two decades has found her own space with a tongue-in-cheek mix of jazz and vocal pop music. She opens for the Cookers, a sharp set of seven players whose combined list of credits dating back to the 1960s is too formidable and too long to include here. But noteworthy: The Cookers include saxophonist Billy Harper, a Houston native who studied at the University of North Texas before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1968.

Cumulatively, the shows capture a city with a long jazz tradition that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

Gardner and Munro came to Houston specifically to operate Jazz Houston. Their arrival, however, came at an inopportune time: they arrived in the city two months before Hurricane Harvey plunged much of the city under water.

“But we really got to see the spirit of the city and how it responded to the crisis,” Munro said. “It was a tough time, but it only strengthened our resolve to do something here.”

They scheduled a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald in late 2017. Jazz Houston continues to reach out to the community with concerts and also educational initiatives and a youth orchestra.

“Things look better, but it still feels a bit unfed,” Gardner said. “We are doing our part to try to change that. There are great jazz musicians coming out of Houston: a who’s who of jazz. So our goal is to feature these artists here and reveal the life and long history of Houston. And it is an extraordinary story.

  • Andrew Dansby

    Andrew Dansby covers culture and entertainment, both local and national, for the Houston Chronicle. He came to The Chronicle in 2004 from Rolling Stone, where he spent five years writing about music. He had previously spent five years in book publishing, working with publisher George RR Martin on the first two books in the series that would become “Game of Thrones” on television. photos you’ve never seen. He has written for Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Texas Music, Playboy and other publications.

    Andrew dislikes monkeys, dolphins, and the outdoors.

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