Learn about the members of Cool Breeze
Hank started playing piano at the age of eight. He studied at several schools and privately in Germany. He studied classical piano, drums and percussion. His family was about to move to America. Jazz great Stan Kenton was coming to Bremen for a concert with Louie Bellson on drums. Hank attended this concert and his life was changed forever. This was his first exposure to jazz, and he knew that’s what he wanted to play. After moving to Chicago, Hank started studying jazz and playing 5 nights a week. Hank worked as a tool and die maker. After an injury, he decided to pursue music full time. He owned a music store and taught lessons for years. Hank moved to East Tennessee and quickly found out that there was no money to be made. He was hired by Carson Newman college to play drums, marimba, and vibes. A jazz band was formed there that would eventually become the Cool Breeze band. Hank teaches piano and drums to this day as well as playing with Cool Breeze.
Jim grew up with music. His dad taught himself to play guitar and bass. He was also a bass singer in a gospel quartet. He began teaching Jim bass guitar in the sixth grade and realized he had a great natural talent for music. In addition to bass he was taking piano lessons. By the time he reached high school, he played trombone in the band. At 16 he became very interested in finger-style guitar like Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed. He taught himself to play and later took lessons from a few local teachers. After high school he played both bass and lead guitar in several local bands and gospel groups. Hank Husen moved into the neighborhood and started attending the same church. It wasn’t long until he heard Hank playing jazz at a church picnic. Jim fell in love with what he heard and instantly decided to learn to play jazz. Not only is Hank a great jazz musician but he also taught others in this genre. To make a long story short, he took Jim under his wing and began teaching him to read and follow jazz charts and has been mentoring him ever since.
A retired pipefitter/ironworker by trade, Stuart has worked all over the country in heavy industrial construction. He co-founded and managed an industrial construction contracting company. Stuart sold the company and now gets to pursue his true passion in his retirement. He started on the tenor sax in high school and played in a rock & roll band. He took private lessons on guitar from Jeff Jenkins for six years. He attends a jazz camp every year to continue learning and improving. Stuart has met and played with many great players from all over the world. Stuart hosts a jam every year at a cabin in the Smokey Mountains. Players come from all over to attend. He also enjoys playing with the Walters State Community Jazz Band.
Todd began playing trumpet at the age of 9. He was influenced greatly by Harry James and Doc Severinsen. Playing through elementary, middle and high school and all the jazz, concert and marching bands possible, he also played for the Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps. Todd went on to the University of South Florida. He studied under Don Owen of the Florida Orchestra and legendary big band trumpeter Leon Merian. Todd has played with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Doc Severinsen and many others. Now residing in the Knoxville area, he has played with members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, well known composer Mary McDonald, and also the Walter State Jazz Band. As a member of Cool Breeze, he continues to hone his craft to bring a dynamic trumpet sound to the area.
PJ is an international award-winning trombone player, composer, and educator. Originally from Sweden, he currently resides in Knoxville, TN. For the past eight years, PJ has worked with many great artists including Ruben Blades, Maria Schnieder, Jack DeJohnette, Bob Mintzer, Ralph Irizari, Mike Stern, Eddie Santiago, John Patitucci, Esperanza Spalding, and Brian Blade, among many others. In 2017 he graduated from the Global Jazz Institute masters program at Berklee College of Music, lead by Danilo Perez and Marco Pignataro. In the studio he has recorded on countless projects including CD’s, jingles, film scores, video games and educational material, to name a few. In 2013, PJ released his album “Time is Contagious” that ties his Swedish, Latin American, North American and classical music influences together.
Jason, the drummer for Cool Breeze started playing drums as a teenager. He played both the trumpet and drums at church over the years. Although he played trumpet in school, drums were his passion. He played for both of the High School jazz bands as well as the Walters State Jazz Band while still in high school. He quickly became an in-demand drummer due to his skills playing and reading music. Jason can be found performing in all different musical styles and situations. He has played classical, jazz, rock, country and heavy metal. Jason has also returned as the drummer for the Walters State Jazz Band. Jason also plays the bass and piano. He has played bass in church and also been hired to play for other churches.
Vocalist Kari Hester has lived in Knoxville most of her life. She began singing in church as a child, and soon after started performing in musical theater. As a teenager Kari performed everywhere from the Tennessee Theater to the Kennedy Center, and then fell in love with jazz in her early twenties. Kari is the newest member of Cool Breeze, and is very excited about playing with this group of talented musicians!