Erik Hempel was 11 years old when he started his music career – mostly, he says, because he just couldn’t allow his little brother to be better at something than he was. He started with piano lessons, picked up violin for a year, and eventually settled on double bass, which suited his larger hands.
Bass proved to be his forté. While a student Lakewood High, Hempel played in every school band, from Concert to Wind Ensemble – and the prestigious 54th Avenue South Jazz Combo.
At 18, he is one of the youngest members of the Tampa Bay Symphony and is the alternate bassist for the national All-American Jazz Band.
Hempel is also the founder of the Tampa Bay Jazz All-Stars, a band composed of talented musicians who, like him, love jazz, live in the Tampa Bay area, and are high school and college-aged.
The 17-member ensemble will debut Saturday at the St. Petersburg College Music Center/Gibbs campus. Tickets and information here.
“There is just something about having many people come together in one place at the same time and having them put all of their energy into one product,” he says.
The group – and Saturday’s concert – are co-sponsored by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association.
“Putting together an all-star band like this has kind of been a dream of mine,” the All-Stars bassist adds. “I have always loved bringing different musicians together to perform, especially if they have never really played with one another before.
“Over the last year I have really been working hard on putting myself out into the music scene, and, in the process, I have met all of these amazingly talented musicians. It seemed as if I kept getting signs from the universe to try and put together this all-star big band concert.”
With band members from as far north as Pasco County and as far south as Sarasota, Hempel’s lineup reflects the diversity of the area, and showcases some of the best jazz talent in Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Jazz All-Stars:
Alto saxophone 1: David Mason
Alto saxophone 2: Matt Sala
Tenor saxophone 1: Kendric Mcallister
Tenor saxophone 2: Dylan Mchann
Baritone saxophone: Parker Marchant
Trombone 1: James Wall
Trombone 2: Khalid Razick
Trombone 3: Ben Lafo
Bass trombone: Ben Fuller
Trumpet 1: Jack Kurtz
Trumpet 2: Adam Finley
Trumpet 3: Luca Stine
Trumpet 4: Johnny Liles
Bass: Erik Hempel
Keys: Anthony Aldissi
Guitar: Alex Malkovich
Drums: Aaron Washington