Ellis Marsalis to tickle
ivories at jazz festival
By Chris Goodier
Daily Cougar Staff
Jazz fans should take note of this weekend's
first annual Trinity Jazz festival, to be held in midtown at the corner
of Holman and Main
(1015 Holman St.). Trinity Episcopal Church
will host performances from Friday through Sunday.
Headlining Saturday night will be the legendary
jazz mentor and accomplished pianist Ellis Marsalis. Opening for Marsalis
Austin-based sax player Elias Haslanger.
Friday, the festival kicks off with acclaimed
soprano sax man Carlos Garnett and is followed by Latin-jazz-inspired Ed
Calle on tenor
Trinity Church's motivation for sponsoring
the event is rather unique. As church rector Rev. William B. Miller puts
it, "Jazz in the sacred
context may be rare, (but) it is a pairing
that makes much sense — theologically, historically, and liturgically ...
this art form is rightly at
home in the sacred context."
Sensing the pulse of a "cultural and spiritual
awakening" in Houston, Trinity aspires to become "a place where creative
and creativity flourish." This coincides
with the historic developments of jazz music.
Originating from large meetings at Congo
Square in New Orleans, the music developed from a synthesis of African
found in America and the Caribbean. It
was then adapted to brass and wind instruments for funeral marches, which
passing of loved ones.
From there, it traveled up the Mississippi
River to Chicago and then to New York. It was during the Harlem Renaissance
became the uniquely American cultural
art form we know today. This stemmed from the meeting of music and soul
The festival provides a good opportunity
for local fans of jazz since the scene here is so gentrified. Formal jazz
venues in Houston are
so ubiquitous, it seems you can't go anywhere
without having to tuck in your shirt (see Cezanne and Scott Gertner's SkyBar).
tired of jazz shows tailored for the yuppie
classes will be pleased to discover this function was created for the working
Hailing from the Crescent City, Ellis Marsalis
started playing the piano at age 11. Now 67, Marsalis has played with greats
Cannonball Adderley, Al Hirt, Ornette
Coleman and Ed Blackwell (just to name a few).
He emerged during the post-war years as
the forerunner of modern jazz (bop and post-bop) in New Orleans. Now in
the twilight of his
astounding career, Marsalis' playing style
has been described by author Jason Koransky as "(interpretive of) the blues
rethinking the dynamics of stride, swing
With such acclaim, you're probably wondering
why you've never heard him mentioned next to names like Miles Davis and
Coltrane. That's because of Marsalis'
"I never had a 'jazz career,'" Marsalis
said. "When the phone rang and somebody had a gig, you went on it. I don't
consider myself a
Marsalis has "survived" long enough to
release an entire catalogue of music and be considered the patriarchal
piano-playing father of
the modern jazz world.
To start, the Marsalis family name parallels
Rolex in the context of jazz. His sons — Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and
Jason — are all
formidable names internationally (Branford,
saxophone, and Wynton, trumpet, are already legends in their own right).
unit can be held responsible for summoning
the jazz renaissance of the last 20 years.
Marsalis has also become the incubator
of non-familial talents such as Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard, Donald
Nicholas Harrison — all current trend-setters
in modern music. It is in the realm of instruction that Marsalis has become
most prominent educator of jazz.
Out of the necessity to find something
"a little more constant (financially)," Marsalis has been a teacher at
Xavier University, Loyola
University and the New Orleans Center
for Creative Arts, as well as Director of Jazz Studies at the University
of New Orleans and a
board member of the National Endowment
of the Arts. It is the emphasis on art in American education that distinguishes
"I don't foresee the day when I won't be
a teacher," he said.
Tenor, alto and soprano sax player Halsanger,
a former pupil of Marsalis, will open for the piano legend on Saturday.
Friday's show will be a fireball of Latin
passion, featuring renowned tenor sax player Calle of Miami. He has played
from Frank Sinatra to Gloria Estefan and
has a versatility applicable to rock and pop.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Calle is formally
versed in Latin jazz and when studying at the University of Miami aimed
to "play the sax
and play it until it smokes." He draws
from a vast pool of influences including Coltrane, Parker and Gillespie.
Playing before Calle will be tenor sax
soloist Garnett of Panama. Having played with names like Hubbard, Art Blakey,
Mingus and a
'70s-era Davis, his more recent acclaim
has been for 1996's Fuego en Mi Alma, released on the High Note label.
Sunday rounds out the festival with a jazz-inspired
mass led by local legend Paul English (also accompanying others on Friday
Saturday night). English is a 25-year
veteran of the Houston jazz scene and has worked with Dizzy Gillespie and
Arnette Cobb. He
has also written for the Houston Symphony.
Sunday's mass will focus on connections
of creativity, diversity and spirituality.
There will also be a master class taught
by Marsalis for aspiring musicians, held Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. So come
participate in the first annual jazz-packed
festival gracing midtown from Friday through Sunday.
Ticket prices for Friday and Saturday night's
concerts will be $30 ($20 with a student ID). A special rate of $55 will
be given for those
wanting to attend both concerts. The master
class on Saturday afternoon will cost $15 ($10 with a student ID).
For directions and information, call (713)
528-4100 or visit the church's Web site at www.trinitychurch.net.