Houstonians, local musicians signify African-American holiday

The 2012 Houston Juneteenth Celebration at Miller Outdoor Theatre welcomed Houstonians to celebrate an important date in Texas history by offering enjoyable music performances Tuesday.

Juneteenth is a celebration that recognizes the day when Texas slaves finally heard of the news that they were freed following the Civil War — June 19, 1865.

This year the Houston Institute for Culture put on a show featuring musicians who performed sounds that ranged from the genres of blues, funk, jazz and zydeco with seasoned jazz composer and musician Joe Sample who was the headliner.

The crowd was in a great mood as some took seats under the theater’s tent, while others sat on the vast lawn.

Authentic zydeco band Les Amis Creole took the stage to warm things up with a three-man performance of the genre’s early-rooted songs with creole lyrics.

Following their performance, blues guitarist Milton Hopkins and the Hit City Blues Band took the stage.

Hopkins, a Fifth Ward native, has earned his stripes as a veteran musician by playing in acts such as Little Richard’s and B.B. King’s band and served the audience with some classic blues music.

He also covered music from T-Bone Walker as well as Aretha Franklin with a guest singer.

Sample is a renowned studio musician who has worked with a list of legendary musicians including Eric Clapton, Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye.

He made a name for himself earlier in his career by playing in The Crusaders from the early 1950s.

The set began with “Hipping the Hop,” a song performed by George Benson and written by Sample.

The headliner offered a wonderfully stunning performance as his hands worked with a dazzling hop on the keys.

Sample made his way deeper into his set with “Souly Creole,” a song from his 1996 album “Old Places Old Faces” that was partly inspired by Louis Armstrong.

“That was an arrangement you have never heard,” Sample said after a long, jazzy whirlwind between his bass player and drummer.

“I’ve never heard that particular arrangement. That was all unrehearsed. That’s how The Crusaders basically recorded — we had a sketch.”

The musician informed the crowd that rapper Tupac Shakur actually borrowed his instrumentals from “In All in My Wildest Dreams” from his 1978 album “Rainbow Seeker.”

“I was very fortunate that Tupac Shakur sampled two bars of ‘In All My Wildest Dreams,’” he said.

“I’ve never written two bars of music that has ever made that kind of money.”

Sample finally concluded his set with the ballad “Miss Me.”

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