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On Sunday, Feb. 17, Connick and Marsalis will take to the court for the 57th NBA All-Star Game at the New Orleans Arena. The Louisiana-born musicians collaborated on the evening’s performance lineup creating a unique musical set that will not only give fans a taste of New Orleans jazz, funk and blues, but will also celebrate the rebirth of their beloved hometown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The performances will air live on TNT, Score Canada, ESPN Radio, and in 215 countries and territories beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET.
Connick will serve as musical director for an unparalleled halftime show featuring four original compositions performed by four pairs of pianists who span the spectrum of New Orleans jazz including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Davell Crawford, Art Neville, Ivan Neville, Jonathan Batiste, Ellis Marsalis, and Harry Connick Jr. and his Big Band.
Marsalis will serve as musical director for the highly-anticipated All-Star Player introductions featuring a set of high energy big band melodies composed by Marsalis and performed by the acclaimed Rebirth Brass Band. The performance will also feature the dynamic musical stylings of award-winning trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and Offbeat Magazine’s 2007 Performer of the Year Trombone Shorty who will introduce the Western and Eastern Conference All-Star teams. Marsalis will also direct the U.S. national anthem performance featuring vocals by Stephanie Jordan accompanied by internationally acclaimed guitarist Jonathan Dubose. Canadian R&B singer, songwriter, and actress Deborah Cox, whose 1998 hit single “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” held the record for the longest-running No.1 single on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart, will perform the Canadian anthem.
"New Orleans is a vibrant music Mecca and I'm proud to call this great city my home," said Harry Connick Jr. "Branford and I are truly grateful to the NBA for its commitment to put New Orleans and our extraordinary musicians on a global stage for the whole world to see."
On Saturday, Feb. 16, prior to the start of All-Star Saturday Night, Louisiana-born singer songwriter Marc Broussard, who released his 2007 album S.O.S.: Save Our Soul to rave reviews, will open the night to perform his smash hit "Home" along with his band. Following this performance, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band will play during player introductions for the All-Stars. All performances will air before a nationwide audience, live on TNT at 8 p.m. ET. Following 22-year-old New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott, whose 2007 album Anthem was inspired by Hurricane Katrina’s effect on the region, will perform the U.S. national anthem, while crooner Lamont Hiebert will perform the Canadian anthem.
That same night, legendary multi-instrumentalist Dr. John will pay tribute to NBA Cares, the league’s social responsibility initiative, with a special performance of the Louis Armstrong original hit "What a Wonderful World." Footage from some of the hundreds of NBA Cares events, featuring current and former NBA players working in communities around the world will be thread into the performance.
On Friday, Feb. 15, 17-year-old Cajun fiddler, singer, and actress Amanda Shaw, who narrated the 2006 documentary “Hurricane on the Bayou” about the erosion of Louisiana’s wetlands, will perform the U.S. and Canadian anthems prior to the T-Mobile Rookie & Youth Jam at the New Orleans Arena. Continuing the NBA’s tradition of having “American Idol” winners perform at All-Star, 2007 winner Jordin Sparks will perform her Billboard Top 100 single “Tattoo” during halftime of the game. Both performances will air before a live audience televised on TNT at 8 p.m. CT/9 p.m. ET.
About the Musical Directors
Harry Connick, Jr. (Columbia Records/Sony BMG) – Over the past two decades, Harry Connick, Jr. has proven to be among the world’s most successful and multi-talented artists, securing his place in the public eye as a renaissance man and versatile entertainer with album sales of over 25 million, three Grammy awards, an Emmy award, and Tony nominations. Connick achieved widespread success as a musician when director Rob Reiner asked him to contribute the score to his 1989 smash When Harry Met Sally, leading to Connick's first big-band recording and first multi-platinum album. In the ‘90s, the full scope of Connick’s artistry emerged. His albums featured original instrumental and vocal music, explored funk, and romantic balladry. Recent years have seen further triumphs, including his Grammy-winning Songs I Heard, and his hit albums Harry for the Holidays and Only You. At the same time, Connick displayed his instrumental prowess, a goal realized with his Connick on Piano series recordings for Marsalis Music which include the releases Other Hours, by Connick’s quartet, and Occasion, Connick’s duo encounter with Branford Marsalis. On January 30, 2007, Columbia Records released Oh, My NOLA, a new album of New Orleans-inspired music and on the same day, Marsalis Music released a companion album of instrumentals by Connick’s big band, Chanson du Vieux Carré.
At the same time, Connick has built successful careers in film, television, and Broadway. After making his acting debut in Memphis Belle in 1990, he has also appeared in Copycat, Independence Day, Hope Floats, William Friedkin’s Bug and P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank. As a television performer, Connick has starred in two holiday specials built around his multi-platinum holiday albums, When My Heart Finds Christmas (CBS) and Harry for the Holidays (NBC), and two Great Performances/PBS concert specials, Swingin’ Out Live and the 2004 Emmy-winning Harry Connick, Jr.: Only You In Concert. He teamed with IDT Entertainment (producers of the The Simpsons) on The Happy Elf, an animated holiday TV special based on his original children’s song from Harry for the Holidays, which aired on NBC and was released on DVD during the 2005 holiday season.
Connick made his Broadway theatrical stage debut in the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game to sold-out audiences and nominations for Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. The Pajama Game received the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. As a New Orleans native, Connick was deeply affected by the devastation caused by Katrina along the Gulf Coast. Connick teamed up with Branford Marsalis, and the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to create “New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village,” a community in the Upper Ninth Ward which will consist of single-family homes for musicians and other qualifying homeowner families as well as elder-friendly duplexes. Its centerpiece will be the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a performance, instruction and recording complex, dedicated to the education and development of homeowners and others who will live nearby. (www.NOLAmusiciansvillage.org)
Branford Marsalis (Marsalis Music) - World-renowned saxophonist Branford Marsalis has always been a man of numerous musical interests. The three-time Grammy winner has continued to exercise and expand his skills as an instrumentalist, a composer, and the head of Marsalis Music, the label he founded in 2002 that has allowed him to produce both his own projects and those of the jazz world’s most promising new and established artists.
The New Orleans native was born into one of the city’s most distinguished musical families, which includes patriarch/pianist/educator Ellis and Branford’s siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. Branford gained initial acclaim through his work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and his brother Wynton’s quintet in the early 1980s before forming his own ensemble, universally recognized as one of the leading small ensembles of the past two decades. The Branford Marsalis Quartet includes Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, Joey Calderazzo on piano and Eric Revis on bass. He has also performed and recorded with a Who’s Who of jazz giants including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock and Sonny Rollins. More recently, Marsalis has pursued his long-standing interest in classical music, performing as a guest soloist with some of the world’s leading orchestras.
Branford’s diverse interests are also reflected in his other activities. He spent two years touring and recording with Sting, and was the musical director of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for two years in the 1990s. He has collaborated with the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby, acted in films including Throw Mama from the Train, Eve’s Bayou and School Daze, provided music for Mo’ Better Blues and other films and hosted National Public Radio’s syndicated program Jazz Set. Among the most socially conscious voices in the arts, Marsalis quickly immersed himself in relief efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He is the honorary chair of the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity effort to rebuild the city, and together with his friend Harry Connick, Jr. conceived the Habitat Musicians' Village currently under construction in the city's historic Ninth Ward. (www.NOLAmusiciansvillage.org)
About NBA All-Star 2008
During NBA All-Star, the league celebrates its tradition and commitment to social responsibility with a week-long schedule of events with the NBA Cares Community Caravan, highlighted by the NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service, which will bring together more than 2,500 people to participate in one of 10 service projects throughout New Orleans, the largest single-day effort by the NBA Family in its ongoing support in rebuilding the city. Among the events that will reach fans in 215 countries and territories are the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam; Sprite Slam Dunk Contest; Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout; PlayStation Skills Challenge; Haier Shooting Stars; McDonald's NBA All-Star Celebrity Game; NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas; and the 57th All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 17, which will be played at the New Orleans Arena and broadcast live on TNT, Score Canada, ESPN Radio and through audio in several languages on NBA.com at 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET.
About the Performers
Jonathan Batiste – Batiste got his start playing percussion and piano at the age of eight for his family’s band, the Batiste Brothers Band. The versatile New Orleans-born multi-instrumentalist performs on piano, saxophone, and bass guitar. By the age of 16, Batiste was peforming with New Orleans top talents including the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Irvin Mayfield, Nicholas Payton, Trombone Shorty, and Cyril Neville, among others. At 17, he released his first CD entitled “Times In New Orleans” which features Jason Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Christian Scott, and Maurice Brown. Also that year Batiste was selected through a nationwide search to be a member of the 2004 Gibson/Baldwin Grammy High School Jazz Ensembles in which he performed, in trio format, at the Grammy week of events and during the pre-telecast in Los Angeles. Before graduating high school, Batiste gained experience composing and arranging music for film, writing the score for the Arts Council of New Orleans. In 2005, at 18 years old, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall. He received the “Movado Future Legend” award in jazz and has been playing around the world with his trio. He is currently studying Jazz Piano at the esteemed Julliard School of Music in New York and performs regularly with his trio at renowned music venue The Garage each month.
Marc Broussard– Marc Broussard was born to be a great musician. The son of Hall of Fame guitarist Ted Broussard (member of the legendary Gulf Coast blue eyed soul band The Boogie Kings), this Carencro, Louisiana native’s musical style is best described as “Bayou Soul,” a mix of funk, blues, R&B, rock, and pop matched with distinct southern roots. At 21, Broussard released his first album, Carencro, in 2004 to rave reviews and followed it up in the Fall of 2005 with a live EP to benefit the victims of Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. In 2007, he released S.O.S.: Save Our Soul, consisting mostly of classic soul covers and an original tune in the same vein. Following the release of this album, Marc signed a major new recording agreement with Atlantic Records. On February 19th, following the All-Star Game, Broussard will digitally release a five song EP of all new original material called “Must Be the Water EP” featuring the title track that was used extensively in conjunction with the promotion of the NBA All-Star Game. Later in 2008, Marc will release a full length studio album of all new material. Broussard’s career has flourished in no small part due to his sensational live show that has taken him around the globe selling out shows and touring with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, and many, many more.
Deborah Cox – Deborah Cox is a Canadian R&B singer-songwriter and actress. Cox began singing for TV commercials at age 12 and performed in nightclubs as a teenager. She entered the music industry as a backup vocalist for award-winning artiste Celine Dion, eventually releasing her self-titled debut album in 1995. In 1998, she released her sophomore album One Wish featuring the hit single “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” The song spent eight weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and held the record for the longest-running #1 single on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart for 14 weeks. In 2004, she made her Broadway debut in the Elton John musical Aida to critical acclaim. In 2007, she released her latest Grammy nominated album Destination Moon, a tribute to jazz singer Dinah Washington. Deborah will also be releasing a new album in spring of 2008.
Davell Crawford – Davell Crawford, an all-around musical sensation, is one of New Orlean’s most exciting live performers whose music combines jazz, gospel, funk, soul, and R&B. Performing since the age of seven, Crawford has enjoyed a widely acclaimed career as a pianist touring throughout the U.S. and internationally. Chosen as a Louisiana Cultural Ambassador and the grandson of legendary Sugar Boy Crawford, he has released his fourth CD at the young age of 22. His music has been featured on many noteworthy compilations with piano and organ work by some of the greatest players to come out of roots music. Crawford has also worn the hat as producer, producing several CD’s and tracks for artists such as Marva Wright and Kipori Woods. He also has worked Stephanie Mills, John Boutte, Ruth Brown, Silvia Arsujo, Jimmy J. Johnson, Tracy Nelson, Anders Osborne, The Wild Magnolia, and Rockin Dopsie.
Jonathan Dubose - Jonathan DuBose. is one of the most respected and renowned artists and producers in the world. Dubose frequently peforms with the legendary New Orleans vocalist and musician, Harry Connick, Jr. and has had the distinct honor of headlining on Mr. Connick’s “Songs I Heard” 2002 world tour. Dubose’s musical riffs can be heard daily on radio and seen weekly on local, national and international television. Born in Bridgeport, CT and self-trained at the early age of 8, Dubose gained experience by performing with his father, Jonathan, Sr., in his quartet group the Sensational Starlights of Bridgeport. He then began to perform and record with gospel greats such as, Walter Hawkins and the Hawkins Family, James Cleveland, James Moore, Albertina Walker, Bebe and Cece Winans, Yolanda Adams, and Beverly Crawford, among others. His musical talent has even been featured on R&B artists’s albums including Angie Stone and Mary J. Blige recordings. Dubose is celebrated internationally as well with guitar performances that have marked him for greatness such as the (1985) performances with the Hawkins Family Tour, (1996) NBA Championship with Harry Connick, Jr.; (2000) Elizabeth Taylor’s ABC TV Special; (2001) U.S. Open – Men’s Final; (2002) NBA Season Opener and return of Michael Jordan at Madison Square Garden with Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. Mr. Dubose has recorded 4 CD‘s which are entitled: “The Healing of the Hymns,” “Quiet Times Vol. 3,” “Releasing the Spirit” and “Expect the Unexpected” under his label “JoBo Records” along with a book entitled “Roots, Branches and Vines” and “The Prophesying Guitarist DVD.” Dubose is preparing to release his latest CD this year.
Dr. John – The legendary pianist, singer, and songwriter whose music combines blues, boogie woogie, and rock & roll, began as a session musician in his hometown of New Orleans in the 1950s. Dr. John gained fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s with music that combined New Orleans-style R&B with psychedelic rock and stage shows that bordered on voodoo religious ceremonies, including elaborate costumes and headdress. The name “Dr. John” came from a legendary Louisiana voodoo practitioner from the start of the 19th century. He is perhaps best known for his 1973 hit song, “Right Place, Wrong Time”, which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. He was also a prominent session musician at this time, playing piano, for example, with The Rolling Stones on the popular 1972 song “Let It Loose,” as well as on the popular Carly Simon and James Taylor duet of “Mockingbird” in 1974. He was co-producer and played keyboard and guitar on Van Morrison’s 1978 album A Period of Transition. A version of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” with Harry Connick Jr. was released on Connick’s album 20 in 1990. His movie credits include Martin Scorsese's documentary “The Last Waltz” in which he joins The Band for a performance of his song "Such a Night," the 1978 Beatles inspired musical "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and Blues Brothers 2000 (in which he joins the fictional band The Louisiana Gator Boys to perform the songs "How Blue Can You Get" and "New Orleans"). In November 2005, he released a four-song EP, Sippiana Hericane, to benefit New Orleans Musicians Clinic, Salvation Army, and the Jazz Foundation of America. In 2006, he joined Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, The Edge, and Irma Thomas to perform “We Can Can” as the closing performance at the Grammy Awards.
Stephanie Jordan – Jordan is a premier jazz vocalist who is the fifth performer to emerge from a family of New Orleans bred musicians. The daughter of saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Stephanie’s musical roots run deep. Her siblings include flutist Kent, trumpeter Marlon, and violinist Rachel. Jordan made her debut at the Takoma Station Jazz Club in DC and has performed at many jazz clubs throughout the city including The Twins Jazz Lounger, Blues Alley, and Carton Baron Ampitheater. She has appeared at the opening of the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library, Langston Hughes Auditorium in New York City, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Marciac Jazz Festival in France, and Jazz Aspen. She has become a regular performer at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans and she recently appeared with the New Orleans Ladies of Jazz at Adagio’s Jazz Club and Sweet Lorraine’s. She has collaborated with her sister Rachel in a fully staged concert with strings from the Louisiana Philharmonic and her Jazz Quintet entitle “Stephanie with Strings.” She also performed during the nationally televised Jazz at the Lincoln Center Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit in addition to a European tour to benefit the effort.
Ellis Marsalis – Marsalis is considered one of the premier pianists in modern jazz. The New Orleans-born musician is the son of the late Ellis Marsalis, Sr., a businessman and social activist, and father to jazz musicians Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason. Marsalis started out as a tenor saxophonist with The Groovy Boys and was one of the few New Orleans musicians who did not specialize in Dixieland or R&B. He played with fellow modernists Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley and Al Hirt and has recorded almost 20 of his own albums. As a leading educator at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the University of New Orleans, and Xavier University, Marsalis has influenced the careers of countless musicians including Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., and Nicholas Payton. In 2007, Marsalis was presented with an honorary doctorate from Tulane University for his contributions to jazz and musical education.
Art Neville – A member of one of the most famous musical families of New Orleans, the Neville Brothers, Art Neville is a singer and keyboardist who was the founding member of The Meters, a funk band that is considered one of the progenitors of funk in the U.S. He currently plays with the spinoff group the Funky Meters along with his son Ian on guitar. As a session musician, he has played on recordings by many notable artists from New Orleans and elsewhere, including Pattie LaBelle (on “Lady Marmalade”), Paul McCartney, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John and Professor Longhair.
Ivan Neville – The New Orleans-born musician, singer, and songwriter and son of legendary artist Aaron Neville, Ivan has released four solo albums and had a Top 40 Billboard hit with “Not Just Another Girl” from his first solo album If My Ancestors Could See Me Now. His second single “Falling Out of Love” charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and appeared on the soundtrack for the John Witter film “Skin Deep” in 1989. Neville contributed to two Rolling Stones albums including 1986’s Dirty Work and 1994’s Voodoo Lounger as well as being a member of the Keith Richards’ solo band the X-Pensive Winos. Apart from appearing on several other artists’ records including: Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, Paula Abdul and Robbie Robertson, he was a member of the Spin Doctors, touring and recording on the group’s album Here Comes the Bride from 1999-2000. In 2002, he formed his own band Dumpstaphunk. Through the Tipitina’s Foundation, Neville has been active in performing benefit shows in support of Hurricane Katrina charities.
Allen Toussaint – One of the most influential figures in New Orleans R&B, the musician, songwriter and record producer began his career in the 1960s when he wrote and produced a string of hits for New Orleans R&B artists such as Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas and Art and Aaron Neville. Many of Toussaint’s catchy tunes have become household favorites through their numerous cover versions including “Working in the Coalmine,” “Ride Your Pony,” and “Brickyard Blues”. Starting in the 1970s he switched gears to a funkier sound, writing and producing for The Meters, Dr. John, Robert Palmer and many others. Toussaint also launched a solo career which peaked in the 1970s with the albums Whisper to a Scream and Southern Nights. It was during that time that he teamed with Pattie LaBelle to produce the highly acclaimed Nightbirds album in 1975 that spawned the #1 hit “Lady Marmalade.” In 1996, he released a collaborative album with Elvis Costello and in 1998 Toussaint was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He currently performs each month at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
Rebirth Brass Band – Founded in 1983 by Joseph S. Clark Sr. High School classmates tubist Philip Frazier, his brother Keith Frazier and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, the acclaimed New Orleans band quickly became known for combining traditional New Orleans brass band music, including the tradition of second line with funk, jazz and soul influences. The band’s regular Tuesday night gig at Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans, one has served as a reliable introduction to the city’s nightlife for visitors to the area. The band regularly tours in North America and Europe.
Kermit Ruffins – The New Orleans-born jazz trumpeter, singer and composer started playing trumpet in the 8th grade and attributes his musical style to the influences of Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Eddy Jefferson. Most of his bands perform New Orleans jazz standards, though he also composes many of his own pieces and often accompanies his songs with his own vocals. Ruffins co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band in 1983 while attending Joseph S. Clark Sr. High School. The band was inspired by another New Orleans brass band called The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a group of musicians credited with bringing influences of funk and contemporary bebop into New Orleans-style brass bands. After playing in the streets of the French Quarter for tips, the band soon became the house band at Glass House, previously The Dirty Dozen’s home venue. In 1992, Ruffins founded the Barbecue Swingers, a traditional jazz quintet. In 2003, the band received a nomination at the Big Easy Entertainment Awards, which recognizes local talents.
Christian Scott - One of the brightest jazz stars to emerge in the last few years is trumpeter Christian Scott. He makes his Concord Jazz debut with “Rewind That,” arguably the most remarkable premiere the genre has seen in the last decade. Instead of retreading bebop the way so-called young lions did in the early 1990s, Scott delivers a smart, grooved and plugged-in set of tunes (nine of the 11 tracks are originals) with his electric sextet. Steeped in the jazz tradition and intent on participating in the music's evolution, the New York-based Berklee College of Music grad is indeed a significant new voice poised to make an impact on the future of jazz. Scott is a natural. Only 22, the trumpeter has both the tone and the conviction of the great players of his instrument. A New Orleans native, Scott represents the next generation of Crescent City horn blowers whose lineage started with the legendary King Oliver and Louis Armstrong and has continued with such marquee trumpeters as Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton.
Amanda Shaw (Rounder Records) – Covington, Louisiana native Amanda Shaw is a Cajun fiddler, singer and actress who began performing at the ripe age of 8. Shaw and her band the Cute Guys appear regularly throughout New Orleans, including annual shows at the Jazz & Heritage Festival. She has recorded two independently-released albums, The Black Dog (2001) and I’m Not a Bubble Gum Pop Princess (2004) – the latter including not only traditional Cajun melodies but also eclectic choices such as The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” In 2006, Shaw signed with Rounder Records and recorded her first album for the label, Pretty Runs Out. Shaw has appeared in two Disney Channel original movies filmed in New Orleans: Stuck in the Suburbs (2004) and Now You See It (2005). Her best-known screen role, however, is as one of the principal narrators in Hurricane on the Bayou (2006), a documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the erosion of Louisiana’s wetlands. Her music is featured in “Hurricane” along with that of co-narrator Tab Benoit and Allen Toussaint.
Trombone Shorty – Named Offbeat Magazine’s 2007 Performer of the Year, this acclaimed trombone and trumpet player began his career as a child participating in brass bands on the streets of New Orleans. In 2005, he was a featured member of Lenny Kravtiz’s horn section for a world tour that shared billing with superstar acts including Aerosmith. The following year, Shorty performed alongside U2 and Green Day during the re-opening of the New Orleans Superdome for the NFL’s Monday Night Football pre-game show. That same year, Shorty performed the holiday classic “O Holy Night” on the NBC series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. His current project is Orleans Avenue, a funk/pop/hip-hop mix in conjunction with other notable musicians including Mike Ballard, James Martin, Pete Murano, Joey Peebles, and Charlie Smith.
Jordin Sparks (19 Recordings/Jive Records/Zomba Label Group) – The winner of the sixth season of the hit reality talent show “American Idol” in 2007, the 17-year-old singing sensation became the youngest winner in the history of the show. Prior to her win, Sparks finished second overall in 2004 at the Music in the Rockies national competition for Contemporary Christian Music artists and won the talent portion of the event. That same year, she appeared in America’s Most Talented Kids twice, winning in her first appearance and was one of seven to appear in a special championship edition of the show. Sparks appeared with Alice Cooper in his 2004 Christmas Show and has twice toured with Grammy-winning Christian contemporary singer Michael W. Smith. In 2003, at the age of 13, Sparks recorded a five-song album titled For Now, produced by Matthew Ward, a legendary Christian music artist. As an actress, Sparks has appeared in several plays, recently starring in a dual role as characters Deborah and Bea in Magdalene at the Plumbing Theater in Franklin, Tennessee. Last year, Sparks took part in the “American Idols LIVE! Tour” along with other contestants from the top ten. Her debut album Tattoo came out in November 2007 to favorable reviews.