As far as first-call saxophonist and Northeastern State University director of jazz studies Tommy Poole is concerned, his contemporary Scott McQuade is a great example of “the perfect working musician.”
It’s not surprising at all that Poole, another busy Tulsa-area performer, is in a position to make that evaluation. The two of them, he says, have “played together countless times, in countless configurations – I don’t know if I’ve played a lot of pop music with him, but we’ve done a lot of straight-ahead jazz and traditional New Orleans-style jazz together, all kind of jazz stuff.”
McQuade, he notes, “just has so many skills and is able to do so much.”
“He can arrange music. He can read anything. He knows any song that you might call out,” explains Poole. “He can play in any style. He can play with a rhythm section, he can play by himself, or he can play in a duo format, walking bass with his left hand and playing chords with his right hand, or playing bass with his right hand and soloing with his right. He’s just got so many skill sets. It’s really good for my young musicians to see someone like that.”
Sunday, Poole’s young instrumentalists in the NSU Jazz Ensemble will not only be seeing and hearing McQuade. They’ll also be performing with him. Or, rather, he’ll be performing with them.
“Scott will be playing from the piano chair of the Jazz Ensemble,” says Poole. “The NSU Jazz
Ensemble is going to play by itself, with no guest artists, for the opening song of each half of the concert. Then, beginning with the second song through however many songs we do each half, Scott McQuade will sit at the piano chair.”
Poole adds that he himself will be playing on “one or two numbers,” including an arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Take the `A’ Train” by Rob McConnell, known for his work with the Boss Brass band in the ’70s and ’80s. And three other guest players, he says, plan to be coming along with the 17-piece NSU Jazz Ensemble Sunday.
“Two of them are friends of mine from the Tahlequah area who play great trombone: Dr. Chuck DeShong and Orien Landis,” says Poole. “Chuck used to teach English at NSU – he’s retired now – and Orien is a band director at Tahlequah High School. And then we have Jim Masters, who’s a trumpeter. He graduated with a music degree from NSU a couple of decades ago – a very, very good trumpet player.”
All of these performers will be turned loose on a repertoire that leans heavily toward classics of the big-band era, including “All of Me,” the Duke Ellington standard “In A Mellow Tone,” and Buddy Rich’s arrangement of “Love for Sale.”
“Then I’m going to throw a curve ball with `Time Remembered,’” says Poole. “`Time Remembered’ is a composition of the great pianist Bill Evans, and it’s a beautiful song. That one is probably the most complex chart we’ll do the whole night.”
Sunday’s playlist also includes “Jive Samba,” composed by Nat Adderley, who played coronet and trumpet alongside his saxophonist brother, Cannonball Adderley, for years.
“They led one of the most influential hard-bop jazz quintets of all time,” notes Poole, “and that song was one of their hits.”
Poole, who’s been in charge of the NSU Jazz Ensemble for the past five years, is exceptionally bullish on this year’s version of the big-band styled group.
“I’ve got a lot of great students, a lot of great improvisers in the band,” he says. “You’re going to hear them get up and play some really good solos. This band is rock-solid, and they get excited about coming up and playing the Jazz Hall of Fame. It’s always a great crowd that comes out, a warm audience and a really fun audience.”
The NSU Jazz Ensemble, with guests Scott McQuade and Tommy Poole, is set to
begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 Spring Concert Series.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.