There are two kinds of stories we all love to hear: One where the hero is so much more than he appears on the outside and one where the hero rises from the ashes in so much glorious triumph he shames the tragedy that brought him there. The story of Justin Echols is both.
Justin Echols is an internationally respected jazz musician with a mind-blowing story. After an injury from a car accident during Operation Iraqi Fredom/Noble Eagle left him discharged from the U.S. Army Reserves, Echols returned to Oklahoma City Police Department with many health issues. During this time of despair Echols discovered a hidden talent, playing the piano and singing. Becasue he was inspired by the performance and music of Harry Connick Jr. initially, Justin declared that if he could no longer work for the police department that he wanted to do what he saw Connick do in a live video performance of “The Other Hours”. Three years after Echols started playing piano, his music landed in the hands of jazz mogul Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis steered Echols' course of fate and introduced him to Juilliard Professor and Director of Programing at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Antonio Ciacca. Over the next three years Echols was mentored by Ciacca, and he introduced him to the international jazz scene immediately traveling to Italy for more serious study. Justin studied and attended master classes with notable jazz greats Dave Liebman, Dado Maroni, and Antonio Ciacca himself. When in New York City, Echols would stay at The Carlyle Hotel watching the musical genius of jazz pianist Loston Harris in Bemalman’s Bar each night. Loston would generously position Echols at a table enablng him to watch his hands. It would make a major impression on what later Justin would become Hefner Grill"s live jazz lounge experience. Echols soon began frequent touring throughout Europe landing concerts in Germany, Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Istanbul and many more.
Additionally, Echols began performing throughout New York City with Harry Connick bandmates who he reveered as they had called him out of a state of depression into the occupation of his purpose. In 2012, Justin was invited to perform four shows at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (Lincoln Center). Justin was starstruck and terrified to sing alongside of the jazz musician he loved most, Harry Connick big band saxophonist, Jerry Weldon. Antonio arranged for Jerry to join his big band as a gift to Echols. Justin began swooning to audiences each Valentines Day in New York City at hotels and lounges throughout the city.
Locally, Echols took on the Artist in Residence work at newly revitalized Hefner Grill in Oklahoma City. He transformed it from restaurant into one of the most prestigious venues for live jazz in Oklahoma City. In 2012, Echols became the youngest inductee into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, the cover story of Making Music Magazine, recorded his first CD with Twins Music, and featured was on Forbes.com as a must see jazz artist in luxe hotels as Justin had finally distinguished himself. "Just in Time" was honored by Oklahoma City MAPS 20th Anniversary, as being their special selection for the City of Oklahoma City. However, the remarkable part of his story is not Echols' inevitable success in music. The astonishing part is that Justin did this all while maintaining his full-time job as an Oklahoma City Police Officer. In the years that followed Justin refocused himself on his family and his health. In 2018, Justin’s story was nominated for a local Emmy for a special segment on PBS called “Meant To Be”. In January 2020, Justin received the prestigious Native Son Award from the South OKC Chamber making him one of the most distinguished artists in the State of Oklahoma.