Over the past two years, Tulsa's jazz and progressive music scene has blossomed: JFJO has continued to evolve, Jeff Davis' Ben.Ben. (and its multiple iterations) has proven itself remarkably prolific and the Organum Records group has been fertile ground for many artists. Over the past year; however, one of T-town's staple jazz projects, Harmonious Monk, has been conspicuously silent.
Without fanfare, the boys from Monk hung up the project and amicably parted ways. On any given night, you may see one of them playing out in a number of projects. Perhaps it Andy McCormick jamming with a jazz circle or "Bones" drumming with Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education, Paul Benjaman Band or Stone Trio. It seems the busiest of them, however, (at least for the moment) is guitarist Sean Al-Jibouri. When a CD of demo cuts arrived on my desk, it was a friendly reminder that Sean was still active on the local scene, but little did I realize the extent until later.
Al-Jibouri's "main" venture is currently being billed simply as Sean Al-Jibouri Trio, a jazz-based triumvirate composed of the guitarist, bassist Cortez Johnson and drummer Stanley Fary. The rhythm section brings Al-Jibouri together with a long history of Tulsa music as Cortez has played professionally for over 30 years with a number of acts including Grady Nichols, Toni Estes and Eldredge Jackson; Fary brings a strong background in soul and funk with ties to Full Flava Kings and Freak Juice. It's rather unsurprising then to hear Al-Jibouri branching out and infusing his jazz foundation with heavy doses of pop, soul and funk.
Following a stretch of strict jazz with Monk, Al-Jibouri has spread his wings, touching on all genres of music. And although the trio may be a primary focus, it's definitely not the whole picture. Al-Jibouri explained that he simply doesn't feel "constricted" and is exploring all avenues. While the Sean Al-Jibouri Trio just started playing publicly in early January at locations like Lola's, Ciao and Hibiscus, the three members' multiple commitments and other interests currently allow the group to play out roughly once or twice a month, with the next gig occurring at Ciao on June 6. Even with limited exposure, however, the trio is already creating a small buzz.
Meanwhile, Jibouri is also involved in a project with a standing Wednesday night gig at Lola's, GirlOne. Fronted by sisters Reynada and Alicia Hill, the group just began its weekly run at the beginning of May and delivers a hard-hitting set of pop, rock and soul, covering multiple decades and genres that range from Kelly Clarkson to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to The Eagles.
On top of that, Al-Jibouri has also been playing guitar for local gospel outfit 1 G.O.P. (One Gospel of Praise). "It's been the most amazing experience -- all the music is so uplifting," he said. "The group has fifteen members and the music goes everywhere -- we may do a little jazz, then straight up metal and then reel it back in with some soft gospel."
On top of those three projects, Al-Jibouri fills his afternoons teaching guitar lessons at All About Music in Owasso and Barthelmes Conservatory in Tulsa. Additionally, he still finds time to sit in regularly with the likes of Annie Ellicott, Rebecca Ungerman and Miles Ralston whenever he gets a call. Before the summer is over, we should also be seeing Al-Jibouri playing semi-regularly with Randy McSpadden at Doe's Eat Place on Cherry Street, indulging in a bit of bluegrass to round out his musical palette.
As a teacher, Al-Jibouri has an interesting perspective of Tulsa's music scene. While concurrently playing with musicians a generation older as well as peers, he is also seeing what will likely be a few of Tulsa's next generation of players come up as well. "Some of my students are already playing gigs," he said. "It's really cool to see because some of them, when they first came to me, they couldn't even hold the instrument correctly and now I'll go see them play and even stop them and ask 'Hey--what was that you just did?'"
"When it comes to my job, I really can't complain," Al-Jibouri said. "I mean, I do, just like anyone else, but then I stop and think: I play guitar for a living--I shouldn't be complaining. I get to wake up, take my time, and run some errands or whatever; teach in the afternoons until maybe 7pm and after that it may be rehearsal or a gig; or I may just get to chill out or practice. What have I got to complain about?"
It's still early for Sean Al-Jibouri and there's plenty on the horizon. If you haven't caught a glimpse of one of our most promising young guitarists, now is the time to clue in.
With Memorial Day weekend upon us, many people are gearing up for summer, ready to skip town for a few days. If you're ready to escape but still need your music fix, you may want to check out the Backwoods Bash Music Festival at Thundermoon Ranch in Mannford this weekend. $20 at the gate covers three days of camping and music with over 25 bands from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and Missouri.
Overall, it will be a full weekend of jam, pop, rock and whatever else surfaces, featuring a handful of Tulsa acts like Paul Benjaman Band, Steve Liddell, Project Huckleberry, Hiphopotamus, Valerie Star, The Moai Broadcast and more. If you love to camp and the weather holds, this is a great deal for a weekend you won't want to miss. It's also a formidable warm up for Wakarusa or Bonnaroo, if you're planning on doing the festival circuit this summer.
If you're looking for some tips and are staying in town for the holiday, here are a few pointers to get you started.
Thursday night's best bet for May 21 is a night of punk rock with Street Dogs, Dirty Mugz, Wasteful Youth and The Normandy's at The Marquee to jump start the weekend.
Once Friday arrives, Mercury Lounge has a stellar lineup this weekend with Josh Davis Band on Friday, Red Eyed Gravy on Saturday and real country with Dale Watson on Sunday, May 24.
If you're looking for something different, don't miss the "Cosmotologeist Dance Party" with Only The Bugman and Hawkeye at Monolith on May 22 and the official debut of Native Lights with Ryan Lindsey and Volcano at Soundpony on May 23.
Memorial Day is quiet, but downtown wakes up again next Wednesday night with a handful of gigs on Main Street. Cain's Ballroom hosts Tech N9ne's "Sickology 101" Tour on May 27 while, Lava Children throw a CD release party at Soundpony and Rev Theory rocks the Marquee with local metal openers Mercy Street and Violence to Vegas.
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