The local music community has been abuzz about an exciting, unexpected rock group that has recently emerged on the scene.
The Tulsa Rock Ensemble, comprised mostly of musicians borrowed from the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, made its debut at Urban Tulsa Weekly's Absolute Best Music Awards July 17 at Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main.
TRE, managed by TSO marketing director Wade Bray but unaffiliated with the orchestra, opened the awards ceremony with a surprising performance of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and closed it with even more surprising collaborations with local hip-hop artists Kawnar on Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" and PDA on Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade."
The performances, which almost seemed to occur spontaneously as the event concluded, attracted what audience hadn't already trickled out the door into Bob's, Cain's side stage, and people crammed themselves against the small stage, bouncing, dancing and waving their arms in appreciation.
Later reviews by attendees would call the performance one of the evening's foremost highlights, and other musicians, either in attendance or who heard about it after the fact wanted to know when and how they could get in on a collaboration with TRE.
"(The response has) been really great," said Bray. "I'm looking forward to a lot of possibilities down the line."
Bray called TRE, which he initiated, "a crazy idea I had."
"I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with it," he said. "And when the awards thing came up, I talked to Todd (Cunningham, founder of Garage Media, who helped UTW organize the event), and it seemed like there was an opportunity there.
"To his credit -- or to his insanity -- he gave me a lot of slack to do that. So we put together an awesome group of guys and girls and they totally embraced what we were doing and had a blast."
TRE isn't a function of TSO, Bray said, because not all of its musicians come from TSO. It's an independent ensemble that draws from a "huge pool of incredible musicians."
The idea for TRE came about, he said, partly because, "I am just such a music junkie."
"I love what the symphony does traditionally, but I also listen to a lot of other music," Bray said. "I started to talk to other (TSO) musicians and found out they had all these other interests as well. They were listening to the same kind of stuff I was."
The beauty of the organization, Bray said, is its collaborative nature and the opportunities it affords to all local musicians.
The debut performance featured Karen Harmon on violin (the only musician not a member of TSO), Michael Nelson on violin, Kathy Rad on cello, Jeff Cowen on viola and Jim Bates on bass.
Not only were the musicians adept at the music they performed, but they also genuinely enjoyed playing it, which only served to further enhance the experience for audiences.
Rad and Cowen have a history with the Brady Orchestra, performing jazz and Beatles tunes, and Bray said Rad was integral in pooling together the group of musicians who debuted the group.
Bray also works in artist marketing and development for SRO Productions of Tulsa, a 30-year-old production company led by Jon Terry.
"I had been in contact with PDA and Kawnar because, when I wear my other hat, I work with bands. I had been talking to them about other things, and all of a sudden, it just kind of came together," Bray said. "And thankfully, they got on stage and made me look really smart, much smarter than I really am."
Ultimately, Bray hopes TRE will release a CD, do some regional traveling and attract younger audiences to TSO's more traditional repertoire.
"The future is young people, so it's something we've got to tap into," Bray said.
You can catch videos of TRE's debut at the Absolute Best Music Awards and more information on the group's Facebook page. Go to www.facebook.com and search "Tulsa Rock Ensemble."
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