In show business there is an old saying "the two hardest acts to follow are animal acts and children." The point was proven to thousands of Jazz fans after witnessing the performances of the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars at the Houston International Jazz Festival at the Verizon Wireless Theater August 5, 6, and 7th. Although the headliners put on great performances, the buzz after each night was about the children musicians enrolled in the Summer Jazz Workshop.
It began Friday night with the "Hiroshima" concert, continued Saturday night with "Tito Puente, Jr.", and culminated Sunday with "Guitars & Saxes." The Summer Jazz Workshop performances, not only were a surprise to the audience-(little if any advanced notice was given) but also a huge delight to the professional musicians. Shoji Kameda, taiko drummer with Hiroshima, paid the young musicians the highest of complements. "I have never seen anything like this in my many years of travel. After hearing these kids play, it made me want to go home and practice." All members of the group were equally impressed with the children’s performance as was the audience, who gave the kids a standing ovation in the middle of the performance.
The praise continued on Saturday with the "Tito Puente, Jr." concert. As one Festival attendee said after the show, "I am truly impressed. How long has this been going on? I never knew anything like this existed in Houston. I closed my eyes and if I didn’t know any better I would have believed the kids were professionals." After hearing the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars perform several original selections with founder, drummer Bubbha Thomas Sunday night, members of "Guitars & Saxes" also had high praise for the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars. Between sets, saxophonist Mindi Abair and bassist Wayman Tisdale were chatting about the advantages the Workshop children have. "I hate to think how good I’d be if I was in an environment like this when I was their age," said Abair. "Me too," said Tisdale. "I’d be a monster on my instrument."
Thomas was delighted over the praise but not surprised. "The children have had offers after their successful appearance on the Festival to record," he said. "The purpose of having the children as "opening acts for the Festival was to expose the community to the great work the Summer Jazz Workshop has been doing for 34 Seasons." An alumni of more than 9,000 have been trained including Jason Moran, Brandon Lee, Frank Lacy, Chris Dave, Horace A. Young, and Rex Gregory, to name a few.