POSTED ON JANUARY 9, 2013:
Jazzing Up the Local Scene
Local multi-instrumentalist steps the forefront
Despite sharing a name with the front man for OneRepublic, "the other" Ryan Tedder is probably a better example of what's up and coming from Tulsa's local music scene. The band leader from OneRepublic may be an ORU grad, but in reality he's far from a Tulsan through and through. Now based in Los Angeles, he still claims Colorado Springs as home and only visits T-Town when the touring schedule dictates.
Ryan Wayne Tedder (or "Tedder Chips", as Charlie Redd has taken to calling him), on the other hand, is a Tulsa native, born and bred. He's also a University of Tulsa graduate that is currently a full time musician with multiple projects going at the same time.
Those who know Tedder -- and those who don't -- will probably initially recognize him from his horn playing in Citizen Mundi, which he joined while in high school. That group ran its course and played its last show on St. Patrick's Day of 2008, with the members all going separate directions. Tedder then worked a "real job," as he called it, for a short period before getting a call that brought him back together with Michael Drummond and Wilfredo Nanita in Jet Set Kings, which became one of Tulsa's most popular cover bands. Tedder's tenure in that band as saxophonist, rhythm guitarist, and keyboard player lasted until May 2012, when he stepped away to pursue a handful of other projects.
2012 was the year that Tedder's light really began to shine and he stepped into his own. Although his primary instrument is tenor saxophone, he transitioned from Jet Set Kings to playing lead guitar in FuZed with Myron and Tylisha Oliver. That move still keeps him in the pop music scene with a group that is establishing itself in the local cover scene, but the group leans in more of a dance and R&B direction than JSK did, and the transition has allowed Tedder to focus on developing his lead guitar skills, which have quickly blossomed, taking many fans by surprise.
Tedder has also been busy with a lesser known band, Mexican Cartel, which made an appearance at Free Tulsa over the summer and has played a few other shows that have largely flown under the radar. Described as "Red Dirt Hip Hop," the group consists of Tedder on sax with Mason Remel, Jordan Hall, Jean Paul Pope, and Scott Phillips (aka Dr. Freeman) for an eclectic mix that has only played a few shows, but has quickly stirred up a buzz in indie rock circles. This is the project that comes from left field, but stands to turn the most heads once the group lands a few higher profile shows.
Being a full-time musician in Tulsa calls for spreading your wings and touching on all things, however, and Tedder fills his week by teaching piano, guitar, bass, and sax during the day and filling in other evenings with additional shows, such as sitting in with Charlie Redd and Full Flava Kings at Full Moon Café every Tuesday night and playing at the Jazz Hall of Fame's lunchtime "Jazz-wich" program every Wednesday from 11:30am to 1pm with his own quartet.
When it all boils down, although Tedder is a multi-instrumentalist with broad taste and his hands in a number of different projects and genres, he's a jazz musician at heart. His primary love comes through in his Ryan Tedder Quartet, which allows Tedder to shine on sax while sharing the spotlight with a trio of other young jazz hot shots: Jordan Hall on bass (and stand-up bass), Stephen Schrag on piano, and Nicholas Foster on drums.
Although our conversation discussed the lack of venues for Tulsa's jazz musicians, Tedder's outlook remains bright. Granted, he did allow that many of their jazz gigs are private parties and dinner parties where the band serves as background music more than primary entertainment, he and his bandmates make the most of the situation, using that time to continue refining their skills.
The payoff comes in gigs like band's headline appearance at the Jazz Hall of Fame this Sunday. The group will perform a number of Tedder's original compositions, as well as a handful from the other band members and a selection of his favorite standards. The difference in Tedder's approach to that of Myron Oliver, with whom he is friends and bandmates with in FuZed, is that while Oliver follows more of a cool jazz and R&B muse, Tedder leans more towards his inspirations in '60s hip jazz and hard bop.
"I'm kind of trying to rekindle the spark of players like Coltrane and Desmond," Tedder said. "The stuff that was hip in the '60s is still hip now, as far as I'm concerned."
He also said that although his quartet may serve as background at private party gigs, shows like the one at the Jazz Hall this weekend will put the band in the spotlight and allow them to be the primary point of interest. Their improvisational skills will also be displayed Sunday with what Tedder described as a "small suite of songs that allow us to explore some different ideas in jazz experimentalism."
Granted, being a young jazz musician in Tulsa isn't easy. With the exception of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, our jazz movement has skipped a generation, but with young players like Tedder and Schrag emerging alongside singers like Annie Ellicott and Olivia Duhon, as well as more independently minded acts like GoGo Plumbay, there are signs that the scene is about to come back to life and take the spotlight again.
If you've missed Tulsa's jazz movement and want to see what's beginning to brew behind the scenes, you can start this weekend at the Jazz Hall of Fame, where the Ryan Tedder Quartet takes the stage Sunday, Jan. 13 at 5pm. Tickets are $20 for table seating, $15 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students. And while you're there, you'll also get a chance to see why "the other guy," Ryan Wayne Tedder, is the one that's truly Tulsan through and through as he keeps his toes wet in all corners of the local music scene while providing a fresh spark in the jazz scene.
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