HHS ‘Dragon Jazz’ Band to play with Marcia Ball and Johnny Nicholas in Four-Island Concert Tour

The Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band has created a musical legacy during the last four decades, under the award-winning direction of teacher Gary Washburn. This month, members of the Band will perform onstage with soulful blues storyteller Marcia Ball and career R&B bandsman Johnny Nicholas and his band Hellbent, in an unprecedented four-island concert tour.

honokaa Jazz Band 2016

Dragon Jazz Band photo by Sarah Anderson

“Johnny got in touch with me through a friend, said Washburn. “He’s been working with kids, involving kids in the music business—and he invited the band to play with them. I said OK,” said Washburn, himself winner of the Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award by the National Society of High School Scholars.

“So, on this island, the Band will play a 30-minute warm-up set for them at their two shows in Waimea and Hilo, and then we’ll play a few tunes with Johnny, and with Marcia, including ‘Foreclosed on the House of Love,’ which is on our CD,” said Washburn.

After a kickoff concert January 24 at Waimea’s Kahilu Theatre, eight young musicians will travel to Hilo, Kauai, Maui and Oahu, to perform with Ball and Nicholas (see schedule below). The new Dragon Jazz Band includes: Kamea Phenicie on tenor sax, Elliot Reddekopp on trumpet, Emma Reddekopp on piano, Kamaehu Arraujo-Duldulao on trumpet, Andrew Connors on trombone, Nick Rohfeld on drums, Ron-Jon Pira on bass, and Lexi Dalmacia on guitar.

This unique performance opportunity tops an already impressive list for the Band. They’ve played on National Public Radio’s “From the Top,” and opened for the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace where they were recognized by the State Legislature. They do a yearly multi-concert tour of Oahu to celebrate National Jazz Appreciation Month, and their 14th CD (an annual fundraiser) has just been released. In 2011, they received a national Grammy Signature Schools Award.

Marcia Ball, courtesy Marcia Ball

Marcia Ball, courtesy Marcia Ball

Marcia Ball’s signature Gulf Coast blues is a sound described as “a one-of-a kind-musical gumbo.” Known as a musical storyteller, the New York Times says, “Marcia Ball plays two-fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time.”

Four of her previous five releases received Grammy Award nominations. In 2014, Ball received the Blues Music Award (BMA) for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Of The Year, for a total of 10 BMAs and 44 nominations. She recently received a 2015 Living Blues Readers’ Poll Award for Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard) and now holds eight Living Blues Awards in all. She was inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

Since the 60’s, Johnny Nicholas has played rhythm and blues with great bands from Rhode Island to Chicago, Louisiana and Texas. After some time off to raise a family, he returned to music in 1991, teaming up with Johnny Shines and Snooky Pryor on the album “Back to the Country.” Nichols has kept the momentum going with a studio album and three live albums on Topcat Records in addition to regular live shows.

The kickoff concert is Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 6 p.m., at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. Projected to be a sell-out, tickets for the show are available online at www.kahilutheatre.org.

The inter-island schedule for Marcia Ball, Johnny Nicholas and Dragon Jazz is:

  • January 24, 2016, Kahilu Theatre in Waimea
  • January 27, Hilo Palace Theater
  • January 28, Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon, Maui
  • January 29, Kauai Beach Resort, Lihue, Kauai
  • February 2, Hawaii Theatre Center, Honolulu

The Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band and their boosters have set up a GoFundMe account to help with travel costs. Contributions can be made online, https://www.gofundme.com/dragonjazz.

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