Honoka‘a Jazz Band, directed by musician, composer and 40+-year educator Gary Washburn, has just released its eighteenth CD, Playin’ in Traffic, featuring three original tunes by Washburn.
The title track was inspired by Honokaa’s “First Friday” monthly street fair, where the band performed in front of Honoka‘a Peoples’ Theatre to an enthusiastic crowd on the sidewalk. Photographer Sarah Anderson commented that it looked as if they were playing in traffic, and the lightbulb came on for a new tune. Washburn wrote “Bonito Sombrero” to spotlight two talented pianists, Joe Miyasaki and Francis Altura, and “Geckos” for the string quintet, a unique feature for a jazz band.
“These are band members who play both saxophone and violin, trumpet and cello, viola and trumpet, etc.,” said Washburn. “I haven’t ever seen or heard a band that has that versatility.”
The Honoka’a Jazz Band tours across the islands every April for Jazz Appreciation Month. They’ve performed for four national conventions, National Public Radio’s “From the Top,” the Big Island Jazz Festival, and CNN’s “Jazz Alley.” In the last two years, a select ensemble, Dragon Jazz, played on a multi-island tour with renown blues artists Marcia Ball and Johnny Nicholas. In 2008, Honoka‘a High School was recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation for outstanding music education. In 2011, they received a Grammy Signature Schools Award, and Washburn was named a Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction.
Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA) members are invited to contact Washburn for more information, and to listen to Playin’ in Traffic.
CDs are available at Music Exchange in Kona and Hilo, Agasa Music in Hilo, Waimea General Store and Gallery of Great Things, Volcano Garden Arts, and Chuck James Music Studios in Honolulu. They can also be obtained at any of the Band’s performances, or through the school (775-8800) or by emailing Gary_Washburn@notes.k12.hi.us. Playin’ In Traffic is being released on the EmKay Records label (under exclusive license to Milan Entertainment), and will be available on all Digital Service Providers throughout the US, Canada and Mexico on October 19th.