Cynthia Simmons & Tavis Minner Team Up
for the Biggest New Year’s Eve Party!
Want to know what to expect at the Jazz Depot’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza this year? Just ask its two headliners.
“We’re doing lots of traditional jazz, and some modern jazz, and by the end of the evening, we’ll have gotten into some R&B, and made it into the biggest party we possibly can,” says vocalist Cynthia Simmons, who’s sharing top billing with singer-songwriter-keyboardist Tavis Minner. “We’re going to try hard to have a little something for everyone.”
“We’ll keep it pretty traditional on the first two sets,” adds Minner, “and then rock it out on the third.”
Patrons can look forward to a musical smorgasbord that includes, among many other things, songs originally done by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. “I’ll be doing stuff like `That’s All’ and `The Best is Yet to Come,’” says Simmons. “One of my new interests is Peggy Lee, so we’ll pull in a little from her, too.”
There’ll also be at least one musical nod to the recently deceased jazz great Dave Brubeck, a longtime friend of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
“I’m going to do `Take Five’ – in the style of Al Jarreau,” Minner says. “That’s one of the songs I just love to sing. With that 5/4 beat, it’s very different, and I like things that are different and diverse.
“I’m really looking forward to doing some duets with Cynthia, too.”
Regular attendees of the Jazz Depot’s Sunday concert series this year have become well acquainted with Simmons and her powerful, versatile, vocals. The year just ending found her featured in several shows, including the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day offerings and the Mercer Magic presentation.
“I also sat in at Mike Bennett’s show in June, and I did Tommy Poole’s and sang a couple of tunes on Mike Cameron’s Don Byas tribute,” she notes. “So it’s been a very good year for me.”
It’s been a good year for Minner as well, albeit in a different way. He hasn’t performed as much as he usually does, concentrating instead on recording and releasing two discs, Unity and the brand-new Christmas with Tavis (available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and cdbaby.com).
“I wanted to keep the momentum going with the Christmas record, and it’s done really well,” Minner says. “I’ve got my dad singing with me on it, and my fourth-grade nephew rapping on one we wrote called `Christmas Groove.’ That’s being played by a deejay over in London, who go Unity off CD Baby and loved it.”
Christmas with Tavis also includes the first official duet from Minner and Simmons.
“We were having lunch with Jason [McIntosh, Jazz Hall CEO],planning the New Year’s Eve show, while I was working on my Christmas CD,” recalls Minner. “Cynthia said, `Let’s not do anything Christmassy in the show, because Christmas is over, but let’s do something wintry – like “Winter Wonderland.”’
“I said, `Why, I’m putting that on my CD. Come on over and let’s record it together.’”
Simmons’ appearance on Minner’s holiday disc adds to a list of credits that’s all the more impressive when her brief tenure as a jazz singer is taken into account.
“I’ve been in Tulsa for five and a half years now, but I’ve only been singing for about two and a half years,” says the former Oklahoma City resident. “I’d sung my entire life, and I’d always wanted to sing jazz, but I never had the opportunity.
“People ask how you break into the business,” she adds with a chuckle. “For me, it was Facebook. Scott McQuade and I became Facebook friends, He found out that I wanted to sing jazz, and one day he invited me over to sit in at his birthday party. I sang a song, and he must’ve liked it, because he was doing a Duke Ellington tribute show and asked me to sing in it. That’s how it all got started. The Jazz Depot’s been good to me.”
Pianist and Simmons discoverer McQuade heads up a cracker jack New Year’s Eve band that includes three other Jazz Hall stalwarts: saxophonist Tommy Poole, bassist Bill Crosby, and drummer Tony Yohe.
Doors open at 8 p.m. and the music begins at 9 p.m. Monday 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 or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 at the door. VIP table seating is $45. A champagne toast at midnight is included.
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.