Essentially Ellington Festival preparing the next generation of jazz greats
Duke Ellington. AP Photo.

Houston has had an impact on jazz much larger than most realize. So, Jazz Houston’s hosting of its annual Essentially Ellington Jazz Band Reginal Festival this weekend will have both historic and future implications.

Jazz Houston’s artistic director, Vincent Gardnersays the event is the regional version of the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center festival which takes place in New York each May.

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“They started these regional versions years ago to help cultivate bands that didn’t necessarily make the festival in New York city, to give them an opportunity to perform the music, to be critiqued, to be assisted with getting better so that eventually they could make the move to the New York festival at some point,” said Gardner.

The Houston event will include clinics, master classes, jam sessions, a music and financial literacy seminar to provide information to students for their professional careers and more.

Vincent Gardner.

“This festival teaches high school bands from across the state of Texas that are coming to Houston to compete and to perform and to be judged by a world-renowned panel of judges. After they perform, they will receive a 30-minute workshop by one of these judges, critiquing them, giving them pointers on how to get better at what they’re doing. They also will participate in a full day of activities, including a continuous jam session hosted by Texas Southern University students. Participants are going to listen to the other bands, so they’ll be playing for their peers throughout the day. And the entire evening culminates with a concert that we’ll have at Granville Sawyer Auditorium on Texas Southern’s campus,” said Gardner, who is the lead trombonist with Wynton Marsalis.

The concert will feature Gardner, along with special guest saxophonist Walter Blanding (formerly with Wynton Marsalis), Rodney Whitaker (director of Jazz Studies, Michigan State and former bassist with Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove), Brian Perez (TSU’s director of jazz studies, TSU) and the Texas Southern University Jazz Ensemble. 

The 250 student attendees are coming from James Bowie, Southlake Carroll, Del Rio, Kinder HSPVA, Lamar, Magnolia, Plano West, Temple and Waltrip high schools.

The Evening Concert takes place at 7:00 pm and is open to the public and tickets are $10. Go to the Eventbrite link https://www.eventbrite.com/e/271373243677 to purchase tickets.