An Oklahoma City police officer who is making a name for himself in the jazz community is going to Italy to honor a fellow artist.
You can usually catch Justin Echols tickling the ivories at the Hefner Grill or playing the red piano at the Skirvin Hotel. Soon this local cop turned piano prodigy is going international with a song he wrote to honor a fellow artist who fell victim to a car accident.
Echols has only been pursuing his jazz dream for the past six years. It was actually a car accident that brought Echols back to the world of music. The former military man turned police officer was almost paralyzed in the wreck.
He turned to the piano as a form of therapy.
"There was a moment. I was watching Harry Connick, Jr. performing Sweet Georgia Brown. I knew that's what I wanted to do."
2/3/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma City Jazz Pianist Finds 'True Path' In Music
Now Echols has written a song for a fellow artist who was also involved in a wreck, but did not survive.
"The tribute concert is for Daniella D'Ercole, who was a wonderful singer and is truly missed as a presence in New York City as a vocalist."
Echols will be singing the song he wrote for D'Ercole at a star-studded benefit concert in Italy next week. He will be performing with jazz great Winton Marseilles.
Echols says while he has been inspired by several jazz legends, he could never have done any of this without the support of his police family and his family back home.
"It's very challenging juggling these two worlds of law enforcement and jazz," said Echols. "I feel like I'm starting to get used to it. I have a tremendous amount of support from the police department, from my chief. [I] have been well received by the officers, so I really feel the love from this great group of people I work with at the OKCPD. That's part of what makes that easy."
Echols leaves Saturday for the benefit concert in Italy. He performs on Monday. He will release an album in October.
6/15/2011 Related Story: Oklahoma City Police Officer Buries Himself In Jazz