When the fifth annual Zachary Breaux Jazz Festival electrifies the Procter Street Pavilion in downtown Port Arthur on June 8 and 9, there will be no induction ceremony for the late jazz guitar genius at the nearby Museum of the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame. That’s because the Port Arthur legend was enshrined there years ago, alongside fellow musical prodigies Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter and others who caused the name of Port Arthur to be writ large in the pantheon of stars.
The musical legacy Breaux carved in his too-short 37 years on earth serves as a powerful beacon for the players who come to Port Arthur every year to pay tribute to the late, great jazzman. Among the featured artists at the 2012 festival will be Brian Best, Althea Rene, Kyle Turner, Dean James, Lora Sims, the Houston Jazz Caravan, and Zydeco thumper Lil’ Wayne Singleton.
Born in Port Arthur in 1960, Zachary Breaux began playing clarinet and guitar as a child. Inspired by jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Wes Montgomery, he played in local jazz bands while attending Lincoln High School. After graduation, Breaux went on to study music composition at North Texas State University.
Those who knew him remember Breaux as a family man, first and foremost. His character was displayed in 1988 when he saved a man from drowning in a riptide on the coast of Italy. At the peak of his career, he died tragically in 1997 attempting a similar feat while on vacation with his family in Miami.
“He had made so many imprints in the world of music,” said Doris Hayes, festival organizer. If any more proof is required, look no further than the stellar group of musicians who will pay him tribute during the festival. Here’s a small sampling:
One of the most versatile saxophonists of the smooth jazz genre, Dean James has released multiple recordings as a solo artist and continues to demonstrate his soulful performances on both alto and soprano saxophones.
Early in his career, a critic described Kyle Turner as the “rising saxist with the sexy sound.” His range of music stretches from straight ahead jazz to fusion, R&B, gospel, blues and smooth jazz.
An impassioned flutist from Detroit, Mich., Althea Rene (pictured) has been known to mesmerize audiences with her captivating performances. She began her musical career at age 4 as a classical flutist, influenced by her dad, the talented Dezie McCullers Sr., who performed with many Motown stars.
Lil’ Wayne Singleton
Founder, lead vocalist and accordionist of the band Lil’ Wayne & Same Ol Two Step, Wayne Singleton was raised in Lewisburg, La., a community centered in the area considered to be the birthplace of zydeco.
Best is a young saxophone performer and recording artist who’s also a teacher, clinician, producer, composer and arranger. He is a former high school band geek – but what a geek! First chair All-State for four years and named the Outstanding Soloist for Texas’ UIL Solo and Ensemble Program. Now he’s all grown up, and his chops will be on display at the festival.
The Zachary Breaux Jazz Festival will be staged at the Procter Street Pavilion in downtown Port Arthur on June 8 and 9. Advance tickets are $12 for Friday and $18 for Saturday; gate prices are $15 for Friday and $20 for Saturday. Bring lawn chairs and visit vendors for food, drink and more.