Rachella Parks-Washington is a Fort Worth-based saxophonist who performed and recorded with Ronald Shannon Jackson. Rachella is a graduate of the University of North Texas. She has shared the stage with the likes of James Carter, Rachelle Farrell, Charnett Moffet, Hank Crawford, Jimmy McGriff, Billy Preston and Kim Jordan. Rachella has toured with the Drifters and Ronald Shannon Jackson. She has played in Jazz Festivals in London, Warsaw, Paris and around the U.S.
Rachella is an educator, a student, and an inspiration and mentor to up and coming musicians. Rachella has explored her sound from Avant-garde to Straight ahead. After years of searching, her sound is a mixture of Gospel, Jazz, and Pop. The sweet soulful sound of her tenor sax fills the room with a warmth that can only end with a smile. Her big and bold sound also found it’s way as a finalist on BET’s Jazz Discovery show, a jazz program that searches for new jazz artists.
Rachella Parks-Washington emerges victorious in her fight with sarcoidosis and with her debut album, a musical diary detailing every step of the journey. As Meditative Inspirational Suite releases tomorrow neither jazz nor gospel music will ever be the same! Rachella used her diagnosis to help other sufferers and founded the Sarcoidosis Foundation of Texas and hosts Songs in the Key of Hope in Fort Worth each year.
There are very few musicians that epitomize the term “Texas Tenor”. With both a big sound and spirit bigger than Texas itself, Parks-Washington has earned her place among jazz elite. The circle shrunk to nearly non-existent with the passing of David “Fathead” Newman in 2009. In that circle, Rachella Parks-Washington’s sax was one of the most recognizable and easily attributable to the Texas Tenor franchise.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area boasts a treasure trove of tenor greats impacting the world of jazz and other genres: Parks-Washington, Shelley Carrol (Duke Ellington Orchestra), Quamon Fowler and Keith Anderson (Roy Hargrove, Prince). This assemblage of sax greats resemble the classic tenor sound popularized in the Lone Star state and shared with the world.
As Rachella Parks-Washington shared her unique gift with the world, it all came crashing down with the diagnosis of the often fatal disease, sarcoidosis. Parks-Washington spent recent years in recovery battling the various health issues associated with the dreadful diagnosis. Her disappearance from the jazz scene and recluse during procedures, recovery and rehab started a process by which her spirit and sound metamorphosed. Call it a re-emergence, renaissance, re-tooling, you can call it a reinvention, but whatever you call it…don’t call it a comeback!
It was in the midst of dark times that Parks-Washington found herself on a journey that would illuminate even her darkest moments. Miraculously, the disease gave as it took. With her health failing, it usurped finances, performance opportunities, time with friends, family and her beloved sax. However in a great exchange; it also gave her time with the Savior, trusting His healing virtue above all other resources.
Not only is Parks-Washington experiencing a supernatural level of healing physically, she has emerged inspired and even more inspiring than before (she has a long list of students willing to learn from both her music and life lessons). Vitality has returned and Parks-Washington is again at the helm of her class on her horn.
An added bonus for listeners is her piano prowess displayed on the album. Though known worldwide for her tenor tenacity, she turned to the keyboard to express what she could no longer express on her sax. Sarcoidosis robs its sufferers of healthy lung activity and its affects are often brutal, even fatal. Parks-Washington takes listeners on a voyage through her tumultuous journey, lamenting in one song that she literally cried out to the Lord for help. In that particular song, Parks-Washington uses a vocal processor similar to Roger Zapp/Peter Frampton as she plays her Nord synthesizer.
Meditative Inspirational Suite is a labor of love, showcasing Parks-Washington’s love for the divine and His gift of music to her. It’s a true masterpiece,a one of a kind and indubitably, divinely inspired! This collection takes listeners through her journey from helplessness to hope. From victim to victor and from challenged to champion. As you listen, you’ll discover the ubiquitous inspiration exuded from each track. In a phrase; it’s ‘life music’, whose analects emote the passion with which Parks-Washington sought the hand of God during her health crisis.
The suite concludes with a celebration “Bring On Praise” which forms the acronym “BOP”, a la Charlie Parker. Though riddled with a debilitating disease, a revitalized Parks-Washington remains a jazz phenom; seamlessly intersecting jazz with the divine. The album swings to a shout chorus close with a 7/4 time signature praise break.
Meditative Inspirational Suite is available this Saturday as Parks-Washington releases her debut album to an anticipatory audience in her native Fort Worth at the Inspiring Temple of Praise Church. With a new album and new lease on life, Parks-Washington is back on the music scene impacting both jazz and gospel music audiences with her testimony set to music. Parks-Washington was profiled in this week’s Fort Worth Weekly, read it here.