Under the leadership of drummer/percussionist, Samuel Dinkins, III; the St. James Contemporary Jazz Ensemble was established in 1997, and began serving this Christian community as led by the then Rector, Rev. Antoine L. Campbell; and, currently led by the Rev. Victor J. Thomas; Rector.
The members of the St. James newly formed music ministry were Amy Griffin, vocals; Gregory “Skip” Nallia, keyboards/piano; Gordon-Keith Vivens, Bass guitar; and Horace Alexander Young, III, saxophone(s)-in addition to Mr. Dinkins on drums & percussion. This talented group of musicians and artist began Jazzing-up hymns, spirituals, gospel, religious and spirit filled secular styles of music; in addition to, their own original material. Over the past several years, the roster of this outstanding ensemble has featured a plethora of Houston’s finest instrumentalist and vocalist; resulting in the current roster of: saxophonist, Kyle Turner; keyboard/pianist, John Torres; Bassist/Guitarist, Kerry Wilkins; and Vocalist, Caretta Bell.
The St. James Jazz Ensemble, which provides the music for the 11:30 AM Jazz Service every Sunday, was featured in the September 2013 issue of the “Dialog – the Texas Episcopalian” magazine. This issue focused on the worship music & styles through-out the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. It introduced the reader to the unique experience of the Jazz Eucharist Service at St. James Episcopal Church for the past 16 years.
The Ensemble has played at Special Events, Weddings, Funerals, Retreats at Camp Allen, Music Festivals, and at Churches & Parishes thru-out the Texas Diocese (even as far as Columbus, Texas). Other performance highlights include the St. James Concert series which featured Artist like violinist, Michael Ward, The NSB Horns, & trumpeter Tom Browne; the Diocese of TX “Rev. Absalom Jones Festival Eucharist Celebration & Worship;” and the 2012 St. James 75th Anniversary Gala. Along with Mr. Dinkins, the St. James Contemporary Jazz Ensemble (Lora Sims, vocalist; Mike Morison, bass guitar; John Torres, saxophone; & John Torres, piano) with the help of special guess Vocalist, Charlie Berry; and Saxophonist, Carl Progue are featured on the Groups 2003 CD release, “Come With Me.” This must have release is available at St. James Church, various Houston area outlets, CD Baby (on line), and here at the website of DDC. “Music to feel, celebrate, and experience!” the St. James Contemporary Jazz Ensemble.
This 7 time Houston Press Music Awards Nominee was born and raised in the small town of Hawkins, TX. Caretta has been moving the masses with her voice since the tender age of 3. After years of nurturing her gift there, she moved to Houston, TX where she continues to musically touch audiences in the U.S. and abroad time & time again. Caretta is a gifted songwriter, as demonstrated on her debut album, Love’s Eye View (July-2008) the majority, she penned herself. Her new single and video “Growing Painz” was nominated for Best Music Video for 2012 Houston Press Music Awards, and is now available to download at carettabell.com. Produced by Swedish producer Red Astaire, it’s a soulful track that’s sure to keep you grooving! Ms. Bell has performed the national anthem for NBA basketball team, the New Orleans Hornets, and has also gained international success overseas in Japan, London, Sweden, New Zealand, Brazil, France, and the list goes on. Over the years, she’s shared the stage and worked with some of Billboard’s #1 Chart Artists such as Ledisi, Bilal, Mos Def, Keith Sweat, Bell Biv Devoe, Keite Young, Stokely and Ollie Woodson to name a few. You can learn more about Caretta at www.carettabell.com.
From Houston, TX; Mr. Torres, is a veteran of the Fourth & Fifth U.S.Army Bands and the 265th USAR PAC Band. Also an accomplished saxophonist, while a student at Berkley School of Music in Boston, MA, he played with some of the best Jazz musicians on the East Coast. Along with his service at St. James, John is also the Pianist at “St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church.” His bio of professional performances read like a Who’s who in the music business. From Houston based Latin icons “Roberto Zenteno & his Orchestra,” to his daughter, the Houston Queen of Salsa, “Norma Zenteno” to the Godfather of Soul, “James Brown” and all in between; Mr. Torres who is a talented writer, his song “What Is Jesus” is one of the original compositions on the groups current release; adds a wealth of musical knowledge.
Talented Saxophonist and Houston native; Kyle Turner is considered as a part of the long line of Texas Tenors (the musical line of famous Tenor Saxophonist in the line of Arnett Cobb, Kirk Whalum and a host of others). As a side man his list of credits goes from legendary Blues Recording Artist, Johnny Taylor to the internationally known R-n-B Vocalist, Luther Vandross. As a leader, he has recorded 4 CD’s of his own and as a side man with many National and Regional Artist. “Kyle Turner and Standing Room Only,” the band, played together for over ten years and opened for such artists as: The Rippingtons, Spyro Gyra, Richard Elliot, Michael Franks, Najee, Alex Bugnon, Joe McBride, Acoustic Alchemy, Jeff Lorber, Paul Jackson, Jr., Stanley Clarke, Gerald Albright, Peabo Bryson, Natalie Cole, Roger Troutman & Zapp, The Bar-Kay's and many more. Kyle’s incredible sound and improvisational skills can be heard thru-out America and abroad. You can learn more about Kyle at his website www.kyleturneronline.com.
From Houston, TX, Guitarist and Bassist Kerry Wilkins began playing guitar at the age of 12 and today he is one of the first called guitarists in Houston, TX. His talents and skill level crosses all genres & styles of music. Kerry is considered a musical genius by many of his peers and during recording sessions regularly "lays down" his solo and/or part in one or two takes. He is an accomplished recording Artist with two CD recordings as a leader, “The Introduction,” released in 2001and “Follow My Lead,” released in 2006 both on Moore & Moore Records, to his credit; as well as many recordings as a sideman. Kerry has electricified audiences on-stage with Kim Waters, Marion Meadows, Kirk Whalum, Bobby Lyle, Billy Paul, Ronnie Laws, Melba Moore, Howard Hewitt, Gerald Alston and many others. From his arsenal of diverse talents, his primary instrument is guitar. He also produces, writes, arranges and plays bass guitar, keyboards, and drums. He once hosted a weekly jazz radio show in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about Mr. Wilkins at www.CDbaby/kerrywilkins.