All that Jazz

James Francies is Ready to Make You "Sway" During Da Camera's Gala

The pianist and Houston native joins a lineup of international musicians for the organization's live-streamed season opener on Friday.

By Olivia Flores Alvarez October 2, 2020

Image: Jati Lindsey 

Just because our globe-trotting plans were grounded this year doesn’t mean Da Camera’s abandoned its international spirit. The organization’s 2020-2021 season opener will give you a taste of those vacation dreams as the livestream concert takes your ears on a spin around the world.

During the free October 2 concert, Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin will play Paraguayan and Venezuelan waltzes, Sonia Wieder-Atherton will Bach out on the cello, and percussionist Pedrito Martinez will channel his inner rhythm with original arrangements of Cuban folk music. The evening will even have a touch of the Big Apple, courtesy of pianist James Francies.

While the Bayou City native’s worked with big names, such as Chance the Rapper, Lauryn Hill, and Nas—and even spent part of his pandemic quarantine working on music with Childish Gambino—it’s jazz where Francies has really made his mark. Since moving to New York in 2013, he’s shared the stage with Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and Stefon Harris, among others.

But growing up in H-Town’s South Side, a hotbed for rap and hip-hop musicians, the grad wasn’t really known for his work behind the keys. “Nobody in my neighborhood knew what I did,” Francies tells Houstonia.

Of course, there were some who knew of his talents: those who heard him play at his parents’ church; Houston-born pianist Joe Sample, whom Francies describes as a family friend; and his peers at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. “Coming from HSPVA is like being part of a family for life, especially going to New York,” Francies says. “You see us all over, no matter what musical situation or genre.”

When it comes to genres at Da Camera, Francies is sticking to jazz with a performance of “Sway” from his 2018 debut, Flight. But we'll be hearing new tunes from him soon enough; the pianist says he's working on his next album "as we speak." 

Oct 2. Free (registration is required). Online. More info at

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