KTSU 90.9 FM is Houston’s only jazz radio station and serves as a catalyst for focusing on the varying issues and trends that impact America’s most original art form. As a part of that initiative and to highlight those individuals from the City of Houston who have made major contributions to jazz, the KTSU Jazz Hall of Fame was inaugurated in September 2008 to honor those accomplishments. Most notably, all measure of achievement was included in selecting individuals as inductees; as such is the case, the first inaugural class consisted of educators, former members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and former alumni of the TSU Jazz Ensemble.
As one examines the rich legacy and tradition of the Houston jazz scene, honoring these individuals is pale in comparison to their contributions towards elevating the consciousness of jazz as America’s one true art form. The ladies and gentlemen of the2008 KTSU Jazz Hall of Fame include:
Barrie Lee Hall – (June 30, 1949 – January 24, 2011) – Barrie Lee Hall, Jr. was a trumpet player, music director, composer and arranger was discovered by pianist Duke Ellington while attending Texas Southern University. Joining Ellington’s band in June 1973, Hall played under the direction of Duke, Mercer (Ellington’s son), and Paul Ellington, when Mercer Ellington passed away, Barrie served as conductor for one year and then as an alternate under Paul for many years thereafter. Hall credits Sammy D. Harris his high school band director at Evan E. Worthing with jump starting his career in jazz. He also credits Texas tenor Arnett Cobb, trumpeter Cootie Williams as major influences as well; before Williams passed away, Cootie gave Barrie his trumpet. For many years, Barrie Lee Hall devoted himself to exposing church audiences all over the world to the music of Edward Kennedy Ellington.
Hubert Laws – (November 10, 1939) – Hubert Laws has a career that spans more than 50 years as a contributor to the classical, pop, rock, r&b and jazz music scene. His introduction to jazz began at 15 years of age in Houston as a member of the Swingsters, Modern Jazz Sextet and Night Hawks, groups that would ultimately become The Crusaders. Hubert even has siblings who are stellar artists as well, they include Debra, Eloise and Ronnie Laws. As one of the true flute jazz masters and is classically trained, Laws has recorded extensively with any number of noteworthy individuals, including Jack DeJohnette, Creed Taylor, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Bob James, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few. He has also performed throughout the world with numerous classical / opera orchestras. Hubert Laws is a three time Grammy Award nominee, has garnered many other awards and accolades that includes a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award.
Anita Moore – (August 9, 1949 – April 28, 2001) – Anita Moore’s rich vibrant voice as a singer was captivatingly magnetic. From a very early age Moore began her journey into the world of music; in her later years, she sang with Arnett Cobb, Duke Ellington and was an understudy for Phyllis Hyman in the hit Broadway musical “Sophisticated Ladies. She attended Texas Southern University and after graduation would sing in the greater Houston metropolitan area. In one instance, Anita was heard singing “I’m Beginning to See the Light” at a local pizza parlor by two members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra–Harry Carney and Cootie Williams The two told Ellington of their experience and Duke offered Moore a job after a spontaneous on the spot audition. Moore sang with Ellington from 1972 until the late 1980s. After Ellington passed away in 1974, Anita continued to perform with the Ellington orchestra for the next fourteen years. Anita returned to Houston in 1988 to spend more time with her family and also taught at an elementary school.
Joe Sample – (February 1, 1939) – Joseph Leslie Sample grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward with a strong sense of purpose and yearning to achieve. At a very early age, he began playing the piano and would surmise that music would be his ticket out of an underserved disadvantaged neighborhood. As one of jazz’s most melodically charismatic artists of his generation, Joe has long left the confines of his beloved neighborhood many times over, but his heart and love for the city he grew up in is as passionate as is his love for music. He is a product of Phillis Wheatley High School, Texas Southern University and one of the founding members of The Crusaders, one of jazz’s most dominant musical groups. Sample, Wayne Maurice Henderson, Wilton Felder and Nesbert “Stix” Hooper made musical magic with their blend of soul-infused contemporary jazz. When Sample left the Crusaders in the 1970s, his influence on jazz never wavered as a soloist. With a career that spans more than 50 years of innovative accomplishments, Joe has played and recorded with any measure of talent, including Henry Mancini, Bobby Lyle, David T. Walker, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King and Ray Parker, Jr. He moved back to Houston in 2002 and is a major staple as a philanthropist and a much in demand musician.
Lanny Steele – (December 30, 1933 – October 21, 1994) – Robert Lanny Steele was born in Houston, Texas and attended Lamar High School and graduated from North Texas State University. He was a pianist for Texas tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb, trumpeter Milt Larkin and played extensively as a blues and jazz musician. He was one of the first directors of Texas Southern University’s Jazz Ensemble, became a tremendous influence on Houston’s blues / jazz scene and is credited with being the founding father of the Juneteenth Blues Festival and Houston Jazz Festival. Lanny also served without a salary for years as president and director of SumArts, a nonprofit arts organization devoted to bringing some of the finest blues and jazz artists to Houston. Many times over, he often devoted his own personal assets to help fund what can be considered one of the largest known blues festivals in America. Lanny’s contributions as an educator, performer and promoter are highly regarded and his legacy as an enthusiastic blues and jazz champion remains a point of reference for generations upon generations to come.
Kirk Whalum – (July 11, 1958) – Kirk Whalum was born in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up in an environment that was filled with the eclectic sounds of blues, gospel, jazz and R&B music. He came to Houston to attend Texas Southern University on a music scholarship. While at TSU, Kirk became a prodigy of Arnett Cobb and was heavily influenced by the richness of the style of jazz known as the Texas Tenor sound made famous by David “Fathead” Newman, Illinois Jacquet, Buddy Tate and Cobb; however, Whalum took that sound even further. He developed his own unique sound and became a much sought after musician in and around the greater Houston metropolitan area. After graduating from Texas Southern, Kirk played with Todd Vullo, Paul English, Arnett Cobb, Bubbha Thomas and a host of other musicians. In the 1980s, Whalum was discovered by noted pianist Bob James, which began a cosmic rise of epic proportions as a national and international artist. He has garnered numerous Grammy nominations and a 2011 Grammy Award, played on numerous tracks as a session artist and has toured extensively in his own right. To this day, Kirk Whalum pays homage to Arnett Cobb as a significant musical influence. In the waning days of Cobb’s life, Kirk Whalum played a musical tribute in Arnett’s hospital room to honor him and for having an enormously huge impact on his life as a mentor.
The future of KTSU’s Jazz Hall of Fame remains extremely bright and the Class of 2012 continues to edify their contributions as Houston jazz legends. They are products of education and have been heavy-hitters in the annals of local, national and international jazz history.
The 2012 KTSU Jazz Hall of Fame Inductees are:
Arnett Cobb – Texas Tenor Saxophone Innovator
Wilton Felder – The Crusaders
Wayne Maurice Henderson – The Crusaders
Nesbert “Stix” Hooper – The Crusaders
Conrad O. Johnson – Educator
Dr. Bob Morgan – Educator
Jewel Brown – Vocalist