Johnny Nicholas rocks the island with the Honokaa Dragon Jazz Band

  • Johnny Nicholas (seated with guitar) poses with the Honokaa High School’s Dragon Jazz Band along with Gary Washburn (standing with sax). (Courtesy photo)

Blues master and roots music aficionado Johnny Nicholas from Austin, Texas, will perform with the young musicians of the Honokaa Dragon Jazz Band for three exceptional concerts in January.

The Palace Theater is proud to host the premiere performance at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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Additional shows will be held at Gertrude’s Jazz Club in Kailua-Kona on Sunday, and at the Blue Dragon Tavern in Kawaihae on Feb. 2.

Led by Gary Washburn, music director of Grammy Foundation Award-winning Honokaa High School, the Dragon Jazz Band is a select group of students who have proven themselves as strong performers, ready for a professional music experience.

“The involvement of Gary’s very talented group of kids is a collaboration that has provided for a very exciting show and a tremendous learning experience for the fledgling Honokaa musicians,” said Nicholas, who has been involved in similar educational projects in Texas over the last 20 years. “It is amazing to see what kids can do when they get involved and excited by musical stimulus and exposure of this nature and professional level.”

Nicholas is no stranger to Hawaii, having toured with his band, Hell Bent, as well as backing up Delbert McClinton and Marcia Ball. Nicholas, described as one of the premier blues and roots music interpreters and artists alive today, has performed with blues legends such as BB King, Big Walter Horton and Johnny Shines. He was one of the lead singers, writers and a multi-instrumentalist in the Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel when they won their first of many Grammy Awards.

“The opportunity to tour and perform with Johnny Nicholas offers many educational opportunities not normally offered in the high school education system,” said Washburn. “Students work with and experience the real professional tour and road expectations and responsibilities. Setting up, sound checking, rehearsing while on the road, and interacting with professional musicians offers a great mentoring opportunity,” Washburn continued. “When touring with Johnny in 2015, I witnessed his band members willingly tutor the young musicians to help improve their musicianship, inspire developing improvisational skills, and have fun the same time.”

Nicholas will be touring with some of his band members and will spend an entire week prior to the shows working with Washburn and his Honokaa students on their ever-expanding repertoire. In addition to the talented horn section, this year’s Dragon Jazz Band will include several musicians and singers, all of whom will perform as a part of Nicholas’s band in the three shows.

Tickets for the Saturday performance at the Palace Theater start at $25 with reserved seating available. Tickets may be purchased at the Palace box office or over the phone at 934-7010, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday. General Admission tickets are also available online at hilopalace.com.

Tickets for the 6 p.m. Sunday show at Gertrude’s Jazz Club in Kailua-Kona can be purchased online at EventBrite.com.

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For the 6 p.m. Feb. 2 show in Kawaihae, tickets will be sold at the door of the Blue Dragon Tavern.

For more information, visit JohnnyNicholasBlues.com or search GaryWashburnMusician and JohnnyNicholasBlues on Facebook.

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