Mayor's Office of Special Events

Jazz on the Hill


Mayor Sylvester Turner will host the inaugural Jazz on the Hill concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, featuring live performances by GRAMMY® Award winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum.

Special guest is Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band. The free show will open with the Houston High School All Stars featuring Derrick Hodge, presented by a collaboration of the Monterey Jazz Festival and Texas Southern University.

Mayor Turner created Jazz on the Hill to promote music education and highlight national and local jazz artists.

This is a ticketed event for the covered seating area. Free tickets are available (4 per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. If tickets remain at 1 p.m., the box office will re-open one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. As always, open seating on the hill. The show goes on rain or shine.

Kirk WhalumKirk Whalum -- Soulful, passionate, stirring...these are the words most often used to describe Kirk’s music. Forged from his Memphis, (TN) gospel roots and his 1980‘s initiation into the thriving Houston, TX nightclub scene, Kirk’s big, rich tenor sax sound is unmistakably his. Houston jazz pianist, Bob James “discovered” Kirk and began touring with him. This led to five successful albums with Columbia Records, including Cache, Kirk’s first #1 album. Kirk and Bob received a Grammy nomination for their collaboration album, Joined at the Hip. Kirk became an in-demand session player for top artists like, Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and most notably, Whitney Houston. It’s his sax heard on the mega-hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Kirk soon followed that career high point with his phenomenal hit album released on Warner Bros. Records, For You, perhaps the most successful of over 25 solo recordings to date; others include his eclectic, and much lauded, Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4). In addition to his many solo projects, Kirk was also a member of the popular soul/jazz group, BWB, which features Kirk as the “W” of the group with Rick Braun (trumpet) and Norman Brown (guitar).

Poncho SanchezPoncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band -- For more than three decades, conguero Poncho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery stew of straightahead jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. Throughout his career Sanchez has held aloft the torch lit by such innovators as Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente and Cal Tjader, embraced by each of those icons and entrusted to carry forward the traditions of Latin Jazz.

Sanchez’s influences are numerous, and his catalogue is rich with his homages to several of his mentors – Santamaria, Puente and Tjader among them. But alongside those Latin pioneers, among the more prominent figures that inform his music is the iconic saxophonist John Coltrane. On his latest album Trane’s Delight, Sanchez pays tribute to the late jazz legend with Latin-tinged reimaginings of Coltrane classics as well as new pieces composed in honor of the tenor titan.

Trane’s Delight continues Sanchez’s remarkable 37-year relationship with Concord, a rich legacy that has now yielded 27 albums. The album features the conguero alongside his longtime band; trombonist and musical director Francisco Torres, trumpet and flugelhorn master Ron Blake, saxophonist Robert Hardt, pianist Andy Langham, bassists Rene Camacho and Ross Schodek, and percussionists Joey DeLeon and Giancarlo Anderson.

The album provides a direct link from the 67-year old conguero to his 11-year old self, who spent his own money on an album for the first time when he bought the 1962 classic Coltrane. Ultimately, Trane’s Delight offers a tribute not only to the stellar music and influence of the great John Coltrane, but a spotlight for the myriad ways that the tenor giant’s explorations have fueled courageous artists like Poncho Sanchez. The results, as on this passionate new album, would no doubt delight Trane’s searching spirit.

Although born in Laredo, Texas, in 1951 to a large Mexican-American family, Sanchez grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, where he was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds that included straightahead jazz, Latin jazz and American soul. By his teen years, his musical consciousness had been solidified by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. Along the way, he taught himself to play guitar, flute, drums and timbales, but eventually settled on the congas.

At 24, after working his way around the local club scene for several years, he landed a permanent spot in Cal Tjader's band in 1975. "I learned a great deal from Cal," says Sanchez, "but it wasn't as though he sat me down and taught me lessons like a schoolteacher. Mostly it was just a matter of being around such a great guy. It was the way he conducted himself, the way he talked to people, the way he presented himself onstage. He was very elegant, very dignified, and when he played, he played beautifully. The touch that he had on the vibes – nobody has that sound. To me, he was – and is, and always will be – the world's greatest vibe player."

Sanchez first formed his own group in 1980, leading his ensemble during Tjader's vacation periods and recording two albums for Discovery. The conguero remained with Tjader until the bandleader's death in 1982. That same year, he signed with Concord for the release of Sonando, an album that marked the beginning of a musical partnership that has spanned nearly four decades and yielded more than two dozen recordings. Trane’s Delight is the latest installment in that ongoing partnership.

After more than two decades in music, Sanchez's efforts paid off when his album Latin Soul received a Grammy award as Best Latin Album of 1999. Throughout the next decade, Sanchez continued to record, releasing such albums as 2000's Soul of the Conga, 2001's Latin Spirits, 2003's Out of Sight!, 2005's Do It!, 2007's Raise Your Hand, and 2009's hard bop-influenced Psychedelic Blues. In 2011, he paid tribute to the innovative Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo by teaming up with trumpeter Terence Blanchard for Chano y Dizzy! Sanchez followed that up with a vibrant concert set with his Latin Jazz Band entitled Live in Hollywood.

With Trane’s Delight, Poncho Sanchez continues to honor the giants whose music has helped shape his own, while building upon the rich legacy they’ve left behind. As this celebratory and heartfelt album exemplifies, he’s long since joined the ranks of the luminaries to whom he pays such profound tribute. Sanchez’s deeply personal reimagining of the jazz canon, as well as his own spirited original compositions, affirm his place at the forefront of Latin Jazz’s trailblazers.

Monterey JazzMONTEREY JAZZ & TSU HIGH SCHOOL ALL STARS with special guest Derrick Hodge (Artist in residence and national recording artist) -- The formation of a new educational partnership with KTSU, TSU and The Monterey Jazz Festival, has resulted in a Music Symposium with Houston area High School Jazz Ensembles from October 23 - 26, 2019. Student musicians will be selected to perform with the featured Artist in Residence at Jazz on the Hill on October 27th. National recording artist Derrick Hodge is the “Artist in Residence” leading this effort. Mr. Hodge has agreed to select the top student musicians for a combined student jazz ensemble to open the concert.

Top jazz students will be selected from the following Houston area High Schools: Waltrip HS, Heights HS, Kinder HSPVA, Westbury HS, Kempner HS, Taylor HS, West side HS, Mac Arthur HS, And more.

Derrick Hodge - Hodge was signed to Blue Note Records after meeting record producer and Blue Note President, Don Was in September 2011. In 2013, his solo album, Live Today, was released with guest appearances by Common and Robert Glasper and vocalist Alan Hampton ("Holding on to You"). He has also worked with Floetry, Osvaldo Golijov, Anthony Hamilton, Gerald Levert, Donnie McClurkin, James Moore, Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild, Q-Tip, Jill Scott, Timbaland, and Kanye West. He has toured and recorded with Clark Terry, Mulgrew Miller, Terell Stafford, and Terence Blanchard.

Hodge was a contributing composer for the musical score of “When the Levees Broke”: A Requiem in Four Acts, an HBO documentary produced by Spike Lee, aired in 2006, as well as, choral arranger for the ending credits of “Miracle at St. Anna”, also directed by Lee. He was sole composer of the score for the documentary film, “Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans”, directed by Dawn Logsdon, written by Lolis Eric Elie and released in 2008. Other film credits include: music composer for “The Recruiter”, directed by Edet Belzberg, “The Black Candle”, directed by M. K. Asante, Jr., as well as, scores for Director and Playwright, David E. Talbert. "Infinite Reflections" was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and arranged for small brass ensemble.