By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
Meanwhile, Global Village keeps forging ahead, making great funky music. "We don't care if it's an empty or full room, just as long as everyone is out on the floor dancing," says trumpeter Keith Van Horne. "We've shaken the image as a cover band, and we're able to draw lots of people to our gigs. I think a lot of bands win their categories because of name recognition. We've been around a long time and are recognized by a lot of people in town. We just want to make sure that people know us as a funk/R&B band." -- A.H.
Critic's choice: Jeepneys
Call it diligence. Call it efficiency. Call it working yourself to the point of overexposure. Andre Sam-Sin, better known to friends, family and fish heads as DJ Sun, has been working his lil' turntables off to get people from all corners of the city -- well, at least inside the Loop -- entranced in his blues-soul-jazz mood music. Let's take a look at this dude's weekly rundown: On Sunday nights, he performs "experimental grooves" on the rooftop lounge at Privé. On Mondays, he hosts "Soular Sessions" at Brasil. On Tuesdays, it's "Soular Transit Authority" at The Hub. On Wednesdays, it's "Groovement!" (formerly "Ascension") at the Swank Lounge. On Thursdays, it's over at the Swank again for the Afro-Cuban/Brazilian rhythms of "Sol." On Friday, he rests, but that's just to recharge for his double shift on Saturdays. First, he oversees his long-standing radio show, KPFT's Soular Grooves. After he's done with that, he's off to Hyperia for a wee-hour DJ shift. And that doesn't count the special appearances he makes at concerts or events here and out of town. And he's not done. He's looking to record another volume of his Soular Grooves series, since his debut collection, Soular Grooves IV, was a cult success. He's also collaborating with classical/jazz pianist Robert Boston for an upcoming fall concert and possible album. It's just another persona for him to dazzle audiences with. "I think that's where I make myself stand out a little," says Sun. "I don't want you to feel like you come to one of my events and get the same thing. I wanna distinguish myself in everything I do, and I think that's what people are accepting." -- C.D.L.
Critic's choice: DJ Sun
Maybe it took the release of last year's exceptional LandHo! to put the Houston Jazz Trio over the top. Regardless, the fact that it took HJT nine years to win its first Pressy is a surprise. The straight-ahead trio has been one of the area's more popular and powerful groups almost since its inception, and with good reason. The interplay is as fine as you'll find on any local bandstand, and HJT's laid-back, spacious sound is never threatening, yet at the same time it's filled with some intense playing and ideas.
"We always try to make it palatable to the non-jazz-listener's ear," says drummer Tim Solook. "We try not to play over people's heads. We just try to have nice melodies, improvise over those nice melodies and play something that people are going to kind of remember."
Another HJT staple is the band's unconventional repertoire. When Solook formed the trio with guitarist Paul Chester and bassist Dave Nichols (who died in 1996 and was replaced by Dave Klingensmith), he decided to avoid the jazz warhorses, opting instead to play more obscure songs from the canon (John Coltrane's "Up Against the Wall" or Gil Evans's "Las Vegas Tango"), pop tunes that most jazzers avoid ("Change the World") and a few originals. "It always made the band sound a little different," Solook says.
So does the group's arranging. Forget the melody-solos-break-melody formula. HJT mixes it up. It even has the guts to play Burt Bacharach's classic 3/4 song "What the World Needs Now (Is Love)" in 5/4 measure.
With creative arrangements, a unique repertoire and subtle artistry, the Houston Jazz Trio has done Houston and the jazz scene proud. -- P.J.M.
Critic's choice: Houston Jazz Trio
Though some aspiring know-it-alls have lost plenty of sleep pondering why Joe "Guitar" Hughes seems to win more Best Guitarist awards than Best Blues, the simple fact remains that Hughes's talent transcends any particular genre. The fiery guitarist who came up through the authoritative Third Ward training grounds is a champion of the rough-edged Gulf Coast sound. The 62-year-old Hughes, who is booking some gigs in Greece for the fall and hoping to finish another record by year's end, has been relaxing at home, keeping his high blood pressure under control by staying out of the 100-degree heat. "You know that when I do a show I give it my best shot, and some of those outdoor festival gigs have been tough," he says. "The sun really does a job on you."
But on a coolness factor, Hughes blows the needle off the scale. He has been a continuing inspiration to a legion of young players whose jaws collectively drop when they catch one of his occasional local appearances. "At my age, you don't need to be practicing all day long," says Hughes. "You better know all of the notes by now, so you're really trying to reach another level in creativity. I don't need to be writing all this down, either, because I can play the guitar in my mind. You know, the blues is all about expression. That was what Ornette Coleman once told me, that he kept seeing all these young guys picking up the trumpet and trying to play as fast as they could, but they didn't understand you have to feel what you play, and if you do that, the audience feels it too." -- G.B.
Critic's choices: Joe "Guitar" Hughes and Texas Johnny Brown