As New Year's Eve approaches, it's often hard to choose between looking forward and looking back. Surely, it is celebrated as both the closing of an annual chapter and the opening of the new. It seems only appropriate then that the party to celebrate the New Year do just that as well: somehow simultaneously give a nod to the past while looking into the future.
You can be sure that there are plenty of options and opportunities to celebrate New Year's Eve. Just take a look at Garrett's summary and rundown in this issue's music section for all of this weekend's highlights. Perhaps the most exciting and intriguing of the bunch, is Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's annual hometown New Year's Eve concert at Cain's Ballroom. Last year, the band's show was a quiet and subtle affair held at Eclipse which cruised under many people's radar, but provided an amazing opportunity to see the group cut loose in an intimate atmosphere surrounded by friends and fans.
Since it's been exactly a year since the band last played in Tulsa and 2010 has been especially active for JFJO, the group is cutting loose this year with a musical costume ball of sorts. Hearkening back to the group's 2008 show at the Blank Slate, Brian Haas and company are revisiting a previous concept and taking it to the next level by tackling the music of a trio of pop divas.
If you recall that 2008 concert, JFJO closed out the evening by interpreting the music of Lionel Richie, Prince and Michael Jackson. This year, the band shakes up the repertoire even more by taking on Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Madonna.
When asking Brian Haas what inspired the group to revisit the idea, he quickly responded that "We were thinking of it as kind of a gift to Tulsa. It's hilarious and a lot of fun to do. We're taking and reinventing these songs with Annie Ellicott, Travis Fite and Costa Stasinopolous and they're each really reinventing the songs themselves."
"When we initially got the gig at Cain's, we asked ourselves 'What can we do to make it special?'" Haas explained. "We immediately thought of doing some new material and then something like we did two years ago."
As a result, Friday night's show will see Panda Resistance open the evening before Jacob Fred takes over and offers up a set of original material, including a number of new Brian Haas and Chris Combs compositions. The band will then return for the third set of the evening, reinterpreting the pop divas' catalogues.
"We learned a few lessons the first time," Haas commented, referring to the 2008 show. "It's actually much easier to take a jazz standard and reinterpret it. With pop tunes, the way they are written makes them far more difficult to work with than you might think: one wrong move and you're kind of stepping on people's toes and changing the song completely"
"Pop is deceptively difficult because it uses a different part of our brain," Haas went on to explain. "We're trying to find a balance between playing the exact song and reinventing it and in doing that, we have to straddle a line of subtleties..."
Not that reinterpreting a different style is new to JFJO. Haas and company have become quite adept at taking outside material and making it their own, whether addressing jazz masters like Coltrane and Mingus or classic rock icons such as The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, as displayed on The Sameness of Difference in 2006.
This year has truly seen the band expand its ambitions, however.
"In one year, we've gone from rearranging Beethoven to rearranging Lady GaGa," Haas laughed when looking back at the past 12 months.
The program he refers to is Ludwig, the band's reinterpretation of Beethoven's third and sixth symphonies, a project which premiered at the OK Mozart Festival in Bartlesville this past June. When asked about the response the group has received for the work, Haas indicated that it has been largely positive, with more to come in 2011.
"We're taking it to New York (City), to play the New York Winter Jazz Fest in January," he shared. "We'll be playing one of the biggest performing arts centers in the country and it's during the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) conference."
"The jazz festival doubles as a showcase and part of the conference, so the people at APAP get in free as well," Haas shared, explaining the value of the opportunity.
Just a few months after the debut of Ludwig, the group retained a classical agent to help market the project. That move, combined with the exposure to the APAP audience will undoubtedly be helpful in moving JFJO's latest masterpiece through the segment's hierarchy to see it eventually be performed with some of the largest and most prestigious orchestras in the US.
Before that happens, however, JFJO plans to return to the recording studio, taking up residence at The Church in January to start tracking a new release, specifically material from Chris Combs' Race Riot Suite, a story of Tulsa's 1921 race riot.
"We'll start recording in January and we're flying in Peter Applebaum, Jeff Coffin, Steve Bernstein and Mark Sutherland," Haas shared excitedly. "It was written for horns so we're bringing them in to play on it and I think it will be something really special for our 21st record."
"I think these are some of the best compositions Jacob Fred has ever had access to," he continued. "Chris Combs has really come into his own as a composer with this project."
While Race Riot Suite won't fully debut until later in 2011, JFJO will be previewing a few of the compositions in its set of new original material on Friday night. Once things shift gears, however, that's when things promise to get more intriguing.
Although Haas and his companions planned out which artists and songs the group was to perform for the New Year's celebration, they left singers to pick which diva each preferred to be. Surprisingly, Costa Stasinopolous stepped up first, taking the role of Madonna; then Travis Fite took Beyonce and Ellicott took Lady GaGa by default. Haas assured me, however, that our young jazz siren is truly making the material her own and making it in some ways even better than the original.
This isn't a mere cover act, however. Not only are JFJO and the respective vocalists reinterpreting the material with Jacob Fred's inimitable style, but each will be performing in full costume and character. In turn, the evening will also feature a full masquerade ball and costume contest.
When asked how the material was picked, Haas shared that "We had so much fun with it before that we decided to do it again, but wanted to make it a mirror image of two years ago. We wanted to make it newer artists and all women, this time, though, so it's a female pop songstress and the material is even 'pop-ier' than before."
Surely, an evening of Madonna, Beyonce and Lady GaGa as delivered by Jacob Fred would be a reason to chuckle and anticipate the show. The addition of Stasinopolous, Fite and Ellicott, when combined with full costumes and a New Year's Eve party, make it an event to not be missed. The Flaming Lips can call their annual OKC show "The New Year's Eve Freakout" if they want, but this year's true party event promises to be Jacob Fred's soiree at Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are still available for $19 in advance or $25 at the door, so don't miss what promises to be the wildest show in town on New Year's Eve.
With the New Year upon us, you know there will be plenty of parties and live shows to partake of. Since the Christmas week was fairly quiet, you ought to be rested up and ready to take it all in. As I stated before, Garrett Weindorf has got Friday night's New Year's Eve highlights all wrapped up for you, so I'll just take a look at the rest of the week with a few suggestions to get you pointed out the door.
Thursday evenings are usually good nights to jump start the weekend and this week is no different. If you're looking for eclectic, Klondike 5 has a show at Elote while the dancers out there will likely want to take in DJ Robbo and DJ Axis at Junkie Live.
If you're looking to visit with an old friend, however, Bravo Delta (B.D., i.e.: Brandon Davis) is home for the holidays with a free acoustic show at The Warehouse in Brookside. After relocating to California for a new opportunity, the beloved front man from My Solstice and Mercy Street is serving up some of his own solo material and hoping to see all his old friends and fans show up to help him feel at home again.
Although many people will still be recovering from the revelry on Saturday night, January 1, you can still get your music fix with Crossland at Baker Street, Desi and Cody at Mercury Lounge, or Lonesome Heroes at The Colony. Metal fans will surely want to start off the New Year on the right foot, however, as Fear Factory headlines The Marquee with Pinhead and a few local openers.
Looking further out, Brandon Clark is always a good bet on Sunday evenings at Mercury Lounge and Crystal Pistol features Shovels and Ropes on Tuesday, January 4, and the recently reopened Eclipse hosts Campus On Fire with Please & Thank-Yous and Warren Franklin on Wednesday to mix up your week.
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