When life handed him dissonance, Justin Echols made jazz music. Now, what began as therapy for his debilitated body and mind after a life-changing car wreck has blossomed into a full-fledged career that will hit its apex so far on Monday. That's when Echols will take the stage in Andria, Italy with one of his most influential mentors, Wynton Marsalis.
“This is the most prestigious performance I've had to date,” Echols said. He recently returned from his own two-week tour in Italy but has no hesitations about returning to the country that has embraced his music with open arms. “It's a big deal.”
At the performance, Echols will sing “Danny My Dear,” a song he co-wrote for his upcoming album with Anthony Ciacca, Echols' piano teacher and Julliard School of the Performing Arts professor.
“Just In Time,” Echols' first CD, will be released in early October, Echols said, and will be comprised mostly of remakes of jazz standards.
“Danny My Dear” was written as a tribute to Italian singer Daniella D'Ercole who was killed in an auto accident in New York City on Nov. 11, 2011. The song is especially meaningful to Echols because he, too, was nearly killed in an auto accident.
“Why I was allowed to live and she allowed to die?” This question haunted Echols as he wrote the lyrics to the tune. During the writing process, Echols said he was “overwhelmed with a sense of appreciation and a sense of loss because we had both taken a lot of risks and stepped out on a limb, if you will, to have this career.”
To celebrate the release of his CD, “Just In Time,” Echols plans to perform Oct. 8 and 9 at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York as part of a jazz concert series.
The crash that changed the trajectory of Echols' life happened in 2003. Driving his truck near Classen and Northwest Expressway in the early morning hours, Echols was on his way to train military police who would be deployed to Iraq.