The Omni Central night club opened its doors for the first time on January 30, 2004. The new venue is an 8,000 square foot facility boasting 5 bars, five V.I.P. rooms and split level viewing from a variety of vantage points. The significance of this event was historical due to the rarity of live jazz performance opportunities in Houston. With the opening of the Omni Central, violinist Michael Ward, saxophonists Kyle Turner and Jeanette Harris brought some much needed relief to jazz hungry aficionados. Although Michael and Kyle have been seen in Houston a number of times in the past, Jeanette Harris brought her skills to the city for the very first time. By most standards, the combined array of talent presented that evening at the opening of this new jazz adventure was well worth the unknowns of the Omni Central. For Gary Wade, owner of the club, this was an auspicious event and a first time initiative for him as a jazz club owner. For the most part, Gary's efforts have been geared towards life as a music promoter and producer. The Omni Central is another ingredient in his highly successful enterprise known as The Omni Distribution Music Group. The club fills a vacuum left by numerous closings and the lack of available opportunities in Houston. In addition, Wade feels that "a more well-rounded approach to a jazz club will generate a higher level of acceptance and success. Not only will there be jazz as an event, the Omni Central will serve as a restaurant as well." The club will also be a non-smoking adult environment where customer satisfaction is the focus. The choice of entertainment on opening night was the beginning of Gary Wade's vision for Houston's jazz connoisseurs.
Berklee School of Music trained Jeanette Harris is the ultimate female jazz artist. Influenced by the likes of Grover Washington, George Howard and Pamela Williams, Miss Harris is a unique individual when it comes to playing the saxophone. Somewhat small in stature, she more than makes up for her size in musical ability. Her effortless performance touched the very essence of contemporary and soul jazz. She combined smooth R&B laced melodic grooves with demonstative percussive rhythms, the end result was a highly talented display of jazz in a multitude of flavors. Jeanette and her cadre of merry men wowed the crowd of attendees with an undiluted array of funk and circumstance. Having only played professionally for a very short time, it was not evident in her performance. In the minds of many, Ms. Harris could have easily carried the night all by herself.
Following Jeanette Harris came one of jazz's best live performers. With a sound rooted in the tradition of the so-called Texas Tenor sound made famous by Arnett Cobb, David "Fathead" Newman, Illinois Jacquet and Buddy Tate, Kyle Turner fits right in. Mentored by Cobb protege Kirk Whalum, Kyle always renders a robust presence when playing. With the ability to touch upon bop, bebop, contemporary, traditional, straight ahead and smooth styles, he has managed to make a name for himself on a wide variety of platforms. He has played with Marion Meadows, Luther Vandross, Bobby Lyle and a number of others during his twenty-plus years of performing. His rousing uplifting shows usually causes audiences to holler and throw up both their hands. At the Omni Central, he too was able to take a night of unknowns into a much needed boost of enthusiastic entertainment.
Just when the night could not have gotten any better, internationally known jazz violinst Michael Ward provided even more spice to the opening of the Omni Central. First of all, Michael plays one of the rarest instruments in jazz. Names such as Jean-Luc Ponty, Noel Pointer, Stephane Grappelli and Jerald Daemyon are a part of a very small fraternity of musicians. Michael's membership is superceded only by his ability as an artist. He approaches jazz as a contemporary musician with a backdrop of R&B laced melodies and smooth grooves. With 5 albums to his credit, this Louisiana-based violinist provides a spectacle that is quite unique in the annals of jazz. First of all, he plays the violin. Secondly his sound is mellow and dramatic in a mesmerizing display of beautiful sounding music. When Michael plays, everyone within earshot of his talent can't help but stop whatever they are doing and listen. His personality and stage perspective are ingredients for pure entertainment. At the Omni Central, everything was the same. For over an hour, Ward carried the 200-plus patrons on a jazz activated sound energy experience. At the end, he was joined by Kyle Turner and Jeanette Harris. Collectively, the three of them moved, grooved, mesmerized and excited the club. After everything was said and done, there was not a dissatisfied person within the house.
Gary Wade was pleased with his debut opening. His vision, along with those of Sweet Productions Unlimited, Inc., the managers for Ward and Harris include many more high caliber events at the Omni Central, especially those along the lines of jazz and R&B. The opening of this new club also serves as an opportunity to elevate the consciousness of jazz in Houston; without these continued moments, jazz connoisseurs will continue to go wanting.