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Houston's 5 Best Weekend Events: Jazz Fest, the I-45 Killing Fields and More

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Music took saxophonist Shelley Carrol from the Houston Boys Choir to Carnegie Hall. Along the way, Carrol, who's being featured in the 17th Annual Moores School of Music Jazz Festival on Friday and Saturday, spent some time at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, with the University of North Texas's One O'Clock Lab Band and as a regular sideman with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Sheryl Crow. While Carrol has toured the world, performing and recording with some of jazz music's best, he says returning to Houston, which he once called home, is a special treat.

"It means everything to me to come home, where I learned everything I know. My teachers are still here, and through the years, I've thought of all of them constantly. Dr. Bob Morgan, Horace Alexander Young, Marsha Frazier, Horace Grigsby and many others."

It was a Houston jazz legend who inspired Carrol the most -- Arnett Cobb. Cobb's the epitome of the "Texas tenor" sound, a loud, honking, electrifying style that has been given new life through Carrol and his contemporaries. Carrol, a master at phrasing, says he learned from Cobb both on and off the stage. Early in his career, he began performing with his childhood hero. "I was doing a gig and complaining about it a little to Arnett Cobb, and he said, 'Son, if you can make a living with the saxophone in your mouth, be happy because you doing okay!'"

The two-day music festival features Carrol and his band, the UH Jazz Orchestra and the Moores School Jazz Festival All Stars, a collection of veteran players led by director of jazz studies Noe Marmolejo, and two lunchtime music workshops.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun. For information, call 713-743-3313 or visit uh.edu. Free to $17.

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To you and me, I-45 is just another highway. To true-crime author Kathryn Casey, it's a crime scene. A 50-mile stretch of I-45 connects Houston to Galveston. Over the past 40 years, dozens of bodies of young women, mostly teenagers, have been found dumped in the woods that border the highway. Casey's newest book, Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields, is a look at the reasons the majority of those cases remain unsolved. On Saturday, she'll be discussing and signing Deliver Us at Murder by the Book, her first appearance for the new release. Casey will be joined at the signing by Tim Miller, founder of EquuSearch.

"I've been looking at pictures [of the victims] for 20 years, off and on, in the newspapers. I wanted to know what happened to them and why the cases weren't being solved," Casey says. During the three years it took her to write the book, she found there were several factors. The murders happened in small towns near I-45, each with its own small police force, all of which lacked experience in murder investigations. There was a lack of cooperation among the agencies that had jurisdiction over the cases. And once the young women were reported missing, officers assumed they had simply run away, delaying the investigation until a body was found.

Casey, with eight true-crime books and three novels to her credit, won't be doing another book like Deliver Us. Ever. "This was the most difficult book I've ever written. I felt it was important and I wanted to know what happened to those girls, [but] it was pretty overwhelming. It usually takes me a year to write a book, and this one took me three years. It was a lot of cases, a lot of research, a lot of interviews. I went to two trials and three or four prisons. True-crime books are always hard to write, but this one was over the top. I won't do it again."

Casey discusses and signs Deliver Us at 4:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑524‑8597 or visit murderbooks.com. Free.

On Saturday, trailriders, marching bands, color guards, local celebrities and dancing girls -- they'll all share the spotlight at the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade. A Houston tradition for more than 75 years, the parade is the kickoff to the three-week-long rodeo that seems to take over the city every March. You'll see colorful floats, all boasting a rodeo theme, but the real stars of the parade are the trailriders. Hundreds of men and women take to the trails and ride into the city. No hotels for trailriders -- they camp out, just like cowboys. This year features groups coming in from as far away as Reynosa, Mexico (386 miles), and as close as Montgomery (70 miles). Take note of the usual parade guidelines: Dress for the weather, expect crowds, get there early and if you find a parking spot within ten blocks of the route, consider yourself very, very lucky.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Downtown Houston. Visit rodeohouston.com for complete route information.

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The Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts and Williams Reaves Fine Art Gallery team up to present "Painting in the Texas Tradition: Contemporary Texas Regionalism," one of our choices for Saturday. The exhibition features work from 15 of the state's most established regionalist artists, whose paintings, drawings and prints capture Texas landscapes, city scenes and homelife. Pearl Fincher Director Timothy Novak is quick to point out that, despite their traditional subject matter, these works are distinctly rooted in the 20th and 21st centuries. Novak notes that the artists are "aware of the tradition of painting the Texas landscape, but with a twist." Modern buildings and farm equipment are often seen as naturally embedded in the land as rocks and cacti. Novak notes that many of the artists are "quoting art history" by creating multilayered works that uniquely combine distinct contemporary and historical styles.

Artistic techniques employed in these pieces smartly range from traditional realism to photo or hyper-realism and beyond to more stylized flat or primitive renderings. Jeri Salter's Sun Slipping Down shows a grassy prairie and the softening lighting of a sunset. Debbie Stevens's 3 Sandys suspends viewers over low rivers and streams glistening and swirling with hyper-realized reflections. Texas's iconic stretches of hot, open road are also shown. Pat Gabriel's painting Passage features a length of highway stretching out to meet the horizon. In works such as these, viewers will recognize local scenes pregnant with the enormity of the land as well as the presence of wild, agile animals. Other natural features, such as plants and rocks, take on nearly anthropomorphic presences and contribute to the vitality of the scenes.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Through May 16; Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts, 6815 Cypresswood Drive. For information, call 281-376-6322 or visit pearlmfa.org. Free.

Roland Carter, guest conductor for the Annual African American Music Gala 2015: Duke, Dett and Three Premieres, chose to honor Duke Ellington in this year's program on Sunday, in part to mark the 50th anniversary of Ellington's "A Concert of Sacred Music." (The piece premiered in 1965 at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.)

Carter calls Ellington, universally considered a great jazz composer, the greatest American composer period. "I see [Ellington] as a classical composer," Carter says. "His music is well orchestrated. He has done some wonderfully classical pieces." Carter plans to approach the Ellington pieces as such. "There's technique for [Johannes] Brahms. There's a technique for [Giacomo] Puccini. There's a technique for doing [Frédéric] Chopin. There's a technique for doing Ellington."

Providing a direct link to Ellington is guest performer Devonne Gardner, who sang with Duke Ellington in the last eight years of his life.

The program includes Carter's well-known arrangement of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and the spirituals "Steal Away to Jesus" and "You Must Have That True Religion," also arranged by Carter. Three original works by Houston composers were commissioned for the event including Roy Belfield's "If I Could Keep One Heart from Breaking"; John Milton's "Let Us With A Gladsome Mind," which will be presented by Calvin Vincent Fuller Jr., former chorus master at the Houston Ebony Opera Guild; and John L. Cornelius II's "I Want to Go Home."

The music starts at 4 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas. For information, call 713-335-3800 or visit houstonebonymusic.org. $30.

Alexander Winkler, Alexandra Irrera and Katricia Lang contributed to this post.

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