A renowned jazz trumpet player, DeShannon Higa is a talent who has been heard around the world. After 20 years of performing with such musical legends as Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, Al Jarreau, Dionne Warwick and Wynton Marsalis, Higa is now taking the starring role: He’s recording his first album, Words Cannot Express, expected to drop in early 2017.
The project has been 15 years in the making, but with the caliber of talent featured, it will have been worth the wait. Released under Higa’s label Wind & Song, the disc will feature more than a dozen notable jazz musicians whom he handpicked—including Grammy-nominated drummer Bonny B., veteran percussionist Gerardo Velez and accomplished jazz pianist Tom Jennings. It’s the fruition of the Hilo native’s long career, which began with him playing the trumpet at age 9. Higa says his earliest influences include flugelhorn player, trumpeter and composer Chuck Mangione and Canadian brassman Maynard Ferguson. Now that he has matured musically, he hopes that listeners of his music feel a sense of optimism after encountering his album. “There’s a message that there’s something to live for; there’s more than just what’s happening around us,” he says.
According to Higa, the islands’ jazz scene has morphed into a more modern genre—“a good thing,” if you ask him, especially with the world-class jazz artists passing through Hawai‘i. “The essence and roots of jazz is innovation, and with the infusion of elements including hip-hop, gospel and rock, this latest interpretation of jazz is exactly that: pushing the boundaries, pushing forward,” says the Mānoa resident. “The people coming to the shows are checking out this newer type of jazz, and it’s great.”
Higa usually performs the third Saturday of the month at Medici’s, as well as at many other venues around Honolulu, with his bands: the jazz quartet Quadpod, quintet Bop Tribal and the eight-piece Subtonic Orchestra: Ear Candy. Hearing this trumpeter play is an experience worth seeking out. deshannonhiga.com
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