Note: This is a virtual performance. No audience will be in attendance.
This year’s Jazz Fest opening performance will be The Houston Jazz Collective’s own Shelley Carrol, who has assembled a supergroup of contemporary jazz greats including Grammy Winner and Funk Master Bobby Sparks II on keys, Mark Simmons on drums, and Jazz bassist extraordinaire Jay McK.
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 the place to carry the torch of Lone Star greatness.
The wealth of their collective musicianship and style is rare in one group. At the head is Houston native Shelley Carrol’s big Texas Tenor Sax 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 leader and scores of other guest appearances.
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 Gospel great, Kirk Franklin. From there his versatility led to stints with a 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 best 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 spent over a dozen years as drummer for jazz legend, Al Jarreau. His fiery, yet sensitive style makes him a first call player for both live shows and studio recordings.
Carrol-Simmons-Sparks 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 scene. 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 a show-stopping soloist.
Together, these four individuals make up one of the most soulful and entertaining groups in Houston.
In celebration of Art Blakey’s 101st birthday, this year’s festival will feature Bu’s Jazz Messengers, brought to us in partnership with the Art Blakey Estate and starring past Blakey Music director Frank Lacy, Kansas native saxophonist Bobby Watson, Valerie Ponomarev, and Curtis Lundy, all of whom are alumni of what is affectionately known as the “University of Blakey”. For more information click here.
For more information visit The Houston Jazz Festival website.
All performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre are FREE!
Produced by Houston Jazz Collective
The Houston Jazz Collective is a nonprofit organization that prides itself on showcasing the rich legacy of Jazz in Houston. We strive to accomplish this by producing and hosting cultural, jazz and tribute related events. Past events have featured critically acclaimed Houston based or native Houston musicians that have gone on to achieve great international notoriety. The organization’s mission also extends itself to an educational outreach program titled “The Houston Center for After School Jazz Programs”. The program reaches through the community by exposing the youth to the arts through not only jazz but through a curriculum that reaches them by giving them an understanding of what music and jazz is in its raw form.
The Houston Jazz Festival is funded in part by the City of Houston Through The Houston Arts Alliance
The Miller Outdoor Theatre Dream Streams Virtual Series is sponsored by HEB!
Additional Sponsors include: