Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult for schools, especially music programs, the Honoka’a Jazz Band has managed to produce its 19th album, “Listen Here.”
While live performances aren’t possible, music educator Gary Washburn recently recorded a new album with several Honoka’a High School students. Since 1978, Washburn has brought much attention and accolade to Honoka’a High School’s music programs.
In 2011, they were recognized with a NAMM Award (National Association of Music Merchandisers) as one of the best communities in the U.S. for music education. In 2013, Washburn was recognized by the Hawaii State Senate as “A Living Treasure of Hawaii.” This year, he received the Ellis Marsalis Jr./John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award.
“The process of making the CD required all of the students I selected to be dedicated to the project,” Washburn said. “Scheduling a time when the majority could rehearse was difficult because many of the students had jobs. When it came time to record, I selected three days that most of the members could be there. This required organizing a carpool to transport everyone to Hale Kumau in Hawi to do the recording. When a student couldn’t make the session, we had to overdub their part later.”
Washburn picked 10 tunes that he felt the Honoka’a Jazz Band could accomplish and wanted to feature all the seniors performing solos. Providing the music in advance of the first rehearsal, Washburn tutored some of them in a private lesson to help them master their part.
“Listen” Here offers a variety of music, including Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love,” featuring vocalist, Kalai Aikau- Akau, the Eddie Harris hit, “Listen Here,” featuring Jed Altura and Czar Agustin.
Julie Perez-Nava is featured on Flugelhorn performing Benny Golson’s tribute to Clifford Brown, “I Remember Clifford,” and the band does a great job on Perez Prado’s “Mambo No. 5.” Chico Lukzen is the featured guitar soloist on Gatemouth Brown’s “Strollin’ with Bones.” Other tunes included are “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, “Sack of Woe” by Cannonball Adderley, and excellent performance of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s “Mambo Swing.”
“I believe the enthusiasm of all the students to complete the recording is reflected in the finished product. If I can do one more album, that’ll make 20, and I’ll be satisfied with 20 CDs to represent the school and the kids,” Washburn proudly noted.
“Listen Here” is available at the main office of Honoka’a High School, Big Island Grown in Honoka’a, Agasa Music and Music Exchange in Hilo and The General Store and Patisserie Nanako Bakery in Waimea.