If you've ever thought the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra or the Jazz Hall of Fame were strictly stuffy, black-tie affairs, think again. Sure, they mine the classics and remind us of our musical history and heritage, but they also bring the music to life and make it current, fresh and vital.
The two entities aren't as mutually exclusive as you might imagine, either. Not only do they share space within the same building (the Jazz Hall lives upstairs in our historic Tulsa Depot, while the Tulsa Symphony offices downstairs), but they also share a distinct musical heritage.
Last year, the two paired up for an annual fundraiser and concert program that showed how jazz evolved from classical roots, and the response was extraordinary. In response, they have teamed up again for the Tulsa Sound Meets the British Invasion and are following up with a program that follows what might be the next logical step in tracing the modern age of music and how Oklahoma has made an impact.
When Tulsa Symphony marketing director Wade Bray began planning the program with Steve Ham, it seemed only natural to get locally bred Oklahoma music historian John Wooley involved.
In fact, Wooley's recent book, From the Blue Devils to Red Dirt: The Colors of Oklahoma Music, provided the basis of the first half of the program. This portion traces the history of Oklahoma's contributions to the contemporary music movement, starting with the Oklahoma City Blue Devils' free-wheeling roots of Kansas City jazz and walking us through Bob Wills' Western Swing and Chet Baker's cool jazz to what's commonly referred to as "The Tulsa Sound" of the '60s and '70s with J.J. Cale, Leon Russell and David Gates. Steve Ham's Jambalaya Jass Band will be spotlighted in this segment, especially as the jazz age material takes center stage.
After a short intermission, the program will step back a decade and transition into a full set of British Invasion material, primarily focusing on Beatles and Rolling Stones compositions as The Brady Orchestra and members of Tulsa Symphony Orchestra work together in concert to further illustrate their classic rock works.
According to Bray, TSO and the Jazz Hall have both been focusing on bringing in audiences of all ages and showing them what the two organizations are really all about. This weekend's performances step out even further and provide a program that anyone can attend--from children to seniors, season ticket holders to pop and rock fans.
As if the music itself isn't enough, getting John Wooley involved only seemed like a natural fit. After reading his book on the subject, Bray told me that he made a quick phone call and said, "It seems insane that you wouldn't be involved in this..."
Fortunately, Wooley quickly agreed and came on board to help plan the program. Once he came to the table and gave his input to the program, the show really started to come alive as Wooley and Steve Ham bounced ideas off one another interweaving the program's featured songs and artists.
"John's book is really the roadmap to the first half of the show," Bray said. "He'll be speaking in-between songs and showing how the songs all relate and how they tie together. If you've heard John before, you know this isn't dry college professor stuff--it will definitely be both informational and entertaining."
As an additional bonus, Leon Russell's daughter and grandson will be making a special appearance in the Tulsa Sound portion of the performance, singing and playing guitar, respectively and paying tribute to their proud patriarch.
Their appearance, which was agreed to early on also serves to tie the show to the current movement to name a Tulsa street after Russell.
Held as a joint fundraiser for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, the program will run for two nights this weekend at the Tulsa Jazz Depot with similar but different presentations on Feb. 5 and 6. Although the musical selection will be the same each night, tickets for Friday night's performance are $85 per person, inclusive of heavy hors d'oeuvres, dessert and beer and wine with cabaret style seating. Saturday night admission is only $25 per person, with hors d'oeuvres and drinks available on an ala carte and cash bar basis.
Whether dressing it up for a classy evening out on Friday or simply relaxing in the intimate setting of the Jazz Hall on Saturday, either night will certainly prove to be special. Music fans of any persuasion--whether that be jazz, pop, classical, blues or country--will all find something special to tie all of the genres together this weekend while gaining a greater knowledge of our state's rich musical history. Tickets and further details can be secured by calling (918)584-3645.
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