HOUSTON, TX (February 9, 2023) — The Houston Symphony pays homage to an American blues legend with “At Last! A Tribute to Etta James” from March 1-3 at Jones Hall. Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke leads the orchestra, Etta James’s two sons Sametto (bass) and Donto (drums), James’s longtime friend and guitarist Josh Sklair and vocalist Crystal Monee Hall, for a soul-stirring celebration of timeless classics, including “Something’s Got a Hold On Me,” “Trust in Me,” and the unforgettable, “At Last.” Fans can look forward to a livestream performance on Saturday, March 2.
Dubbed the “Matriarch of Blues,” Etta James led a rich and varied musical career, exploring a myriad of genres including R&B, rock ‘n roll, jazz, soul, and gospel. With a unique ability to infuse harmonious and elegant nuances into her sound, she left an indelible mark on the American blues landscape, one of the very first women to embrace the style that would become soul. In 1993, James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she would go on to join the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, as well as the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. Acknowledged as one of the top 100 musicians of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine, Etta James’s remarkable legacy was reinforced in 2015 when Billboard listed her among “The 35 Greatest R&B Artists of All Time.” Her enduring musical prowess continues to resonate and influence far beyond the blues genre. Notably, contemporary artists such as Christina Aguilera, Avicii, and Flo Rida have paid homage by covering and sampling her hit song “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” further underscoring James as a timeless icon with profound influence across genres and generations.
A multifaceted artist and accomplished actress, Crystal Monee Hall has charted a path marked by diversity and notable achievements. Early in her career, she embraced a variety of musical roles before lending her soulful vocals to renowned artists like Elton John, Mariah Carey, and Jason Mraz. In a significant moment of solidarity with the #TimesUp movement, Hall shared the stage with Kesha at the 2018 Grammy Awards. She also contributed to Mariah Carey’s Christmas residency at New York’s Beacon Theater and performed alongside Kanye West and Chance the Rapper during the debut of “Ultralight Beam” on Saturday Night Live. Hall has released three studio albums and continues to carve a distinctive space for herself in the industry, earning recognition from esteemed platforms like Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine.
Josh Sklair, a highly acclaimed figure in the music industry, boasts a remarkable career as a two-time Grammy Award-winning producer, guitarist, musical director, arranger, and co-writer. His profound friendship and collaboration with the legendary Etta James spanned over two decades, solidifying him as an integral part of her musical journey. Sklair’s extensive career extends to touring with iconic figures such as Stevie Wonder, the Blues Brothers, and the Jones Girls, showcasing his diverse contributions to the music world.
From March 1 to 3, guests can look forward to a specialty Etta James-themed cocktail, the Stormy Whiskey Sour, available before the show and during intermissions at the Jones Hall Round Bar. For tickets and more information, call 713.224.7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org/ettajames.
HOUSTON SYMPHONY PRESENTS AT LAST! A TRIBUTE TO ETTA JAMES
Friday, March 1, 2024 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 8 p.m.
Livestream performance on Saturday, March 2, 2024
Sunday, March 3, 2024 at 2:30 p.m.
Jones Hall for the Performing Arts
Steven Reineke, conductor
Crystal Monee Hall, vocalist
Josh Sklair, guitar
Sametto James, bass
Donto James, drums
About Steven Reineke
Steven Reineke has established himself as one of North America’s leading conductors of popular music. In addition to his role as Principal POPS Conductor of the Houston Symphony, this season, he celebrates his 10th anniversary as music director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. Additionally, he is principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Steven is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and his extensive North American conducting appearances include Atlanta, Cincinnati, Edmonton, San Francisco, and Sarasota.
On stage, he has created programs and collaborated with a range of leading artists from the worlds of hip hop, Broadway, television, and rock, including Common, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Wayne Brady, Peter Frampton, and Ben Folds, among others. In 2017, he was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered leading the National Symphony Orchestra, in a first for the show’s 45-year history, performing live music excerpts between news segments. In 2018, Steven led the same orchestra and hip hop legend Nas performing his seminal album, Illmatic, on PBS’s Great Performances.
As the creator of more than 100 orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Steven’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America, including performances by the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic. His Sun Valley Festival Fanfare commemorated the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s pavilion, and his Festival Te Deum and Swan’s Island Sojourn were debuted by the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops Orchestras. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands worldwide.
A native of Ohio, Steven is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned Bachelor of Music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He lives in New York City with his husband, Eric Gabbard.
About Crystal Monee Hall
Crystal Monee Hall’s varied career as a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and actress has included roles on Broadway (RENT), sold out tours with acclaimed musicians Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead) and Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), being a featured vocalist on Saturday Night Live and a guest appearance on the HBO comedy-drama High Maintenance. She has released three albums (one solo as well as two with Hart) with work from her most recent EP If You Breathe called “riveting” by Billboard Magazine. Her newest release seamlessly blends Hall’s love for world, blues, jazz, soul, and contemporary R&B, showcasing her talent as a songwriter, while highlighting a voice that has captivated audiences worldwide.
Currently, Crystal is a featured vocalist on Broadway Superstar Kristin Chenoweth’s For the Girls concerts at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater. In addition to being heavily featured, her songwriting comes front and center when Chenoweth performs her original tune “Reasons for Hope” co-written by the shows Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell.
Crystal continues to be a key part of high-profile music moments, including a feature with country superstar Thomas Rhett on Saturday Night Live in March 2019. Rolling Stone Magazine took notice of her standout performance of “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time,” noting it “put on display the superb, soulful talents of Crystal Monee Hall.” He invited her out to his sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in September 2019 for an encore performance of the tune.
Crystal has featured in Emmy, Tony, and Grammy-winning Ben Platt’s Netflix concert special filmed at Radio City Music Hall in September 2019. She also performed with him on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Good Morning America, and for the run of his sold-out Sing to Me Instead tour.
Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Cynthia Erivo’s PBS special features Hall in the role of soprano during her knockout performance of “Ain’t No Way.” She also joined Kesha as part of her powerful 2018 Grammy Awards performance in support of the #TimesUp movement, provided supporting vocals for Mariah Carey’s Christmas residency at New York’s Beacon Theater, performed alongside Kanye West and Chance the Rapper during their debut performance of “Ultralight Beam” on Saturday Night Live. Crystal provided backing vocals for Craig David’s “All We Needed,” the official song of the BBC’s 2016 Children in Need campaign.
With her career continuing to flourish, Hall looks forward to reaching new listeners with her message, music, and voice.
About Josh Sklair
Josh Sklair is a two-time Grammy Award winner, honored during his 20+ years collaboration as band leader, guitarist, arranger, and co-writer with American music icon Etta James. After briefly attending Berklee College of Music – Boston in 1978, Josh graduated from Howard Roberts’s Guitar Institute of Technology – Los Angeles (later “Musician’s Institute”/ M.I.).
Through the ’80s and ’90s, Josh was first-call guitar player for Dick Clark’s Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll Show House Band—the Brother John (Goines) Band—backing the legends: Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Del Shannon, The Shirelles, Darlene Love, Lowell Fulson, Henry Butler, Lee Allen, Leo Nocentelli, Little Anthony, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, The Coasters, The Platters, The Rivingtons, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Sheene, The Drifters, The Olympics, Fabian, and Freddy Cannon. Valuable experience gained playing with these music pioneers gave Josh a solid foundation in the roots of rock, soul, and rhythm & blues.
Between regular touring and recording over a dozen studio albums with Etta, Josh maintained a solid career in Los Angeles, recording and/or performing with Jon Lucien, Sophie B. Hawkins, Jim Belushi & Dan Aykroyd/The Blues Brothers, Jeffrey Osborne, the H.B. Barnum Orchestra, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and many others.
Josh’s guitar tracks, production and/or compositions can also be heard on numerous movie soundtracks, television shows, and commercials in addition to solo albums Josh on VTL, After Hours, and Internal Voices.
About Donto and Sametto James
Donto James is a recording engineer, music producer, drummer, two-time Grammy Award winner, and the son of iconic singer Etta James. Drumming from a young age, he recorded and performed with Etta James and The Roots Band through the end of the late singer’s career. Donto earned Grammy Awards as a co-producer for Etta James’s Let’s Roll (2003) and Blues to the Bone (2004).
Sametto James, son of Etta James, is a music producer, bass player, and two-time Grammy Award winner. He began playing bass at a young age and joined the family band alongside his mother and brother Donto, recording and performing with Etta James and The Roots Band. Sametto earned Grammy Awards as a co-producer for Etta James’s Let’s Roll and Blues to the Bone.
About Houston Symphony
Under Music Director Juraj Valčuha, the Houston Symphony continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. One of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, the Symphony held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an operating budget of $37.8 million, the full-time ensemble of professional musicians presents more than 130 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Traditionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s three Community-Embedded Musicians also offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.
After suspending concert activities in March 2020, the Symphony successfully completed a full 2020–21 season with in-person audiences and weekly livestreams of each performance, making it one of the only orchestras in the world to do so. The Houston Symphony remains committed to livestreaming its 2023–24 Season to a broad audience in over forty-five countries and all fifty states, one of few American orchestras dedicated to transmitting live performances to a size-able audience outside its home city through this technology.
The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category. The Symphony’s most recent recordings include a Pentatone release in January 2022 of its world premiere performances of Jimmy López Bellido’s Aurora and Ad Astra, and a Naxos release in July 2023 of its world premiere performance of Jennifer Higdon’s Duo Duel.