Each one of the four jazz combos set to perform this Sunday at Tulsa’s Jazz Depot features some of the top young musicians in Oklahoma, all coming off an intensive week of intense instruction and practice at the 4th Annual Oklahoma Jazz Camp, a program of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall. With an all-star faculty headed by Dr. Tommy Poole, Northeastern State University’s director of jazz studies and a well-known area saxophonist, the camp was designed from the beginning for the specific purpose of teaching promising students the ins and outs of small-combo jazz.
“There are a couple of camps in Oklahoma already that focus quite a bit on big-band performance,” explains Poole. “We felt we could jump in and satisfy a need by providing a camp that focused on jazz improvisation and jazz-combo performance.”
To help this achieve that goal this year, a team was recruited with some familiar names to area jazz aficionados, including pianist Scott McQuade, trombonist Rod Clark and bassist JordanHehl. Like Poole, Hehl and McQuade teach at NSU, as do Oklahoma Jazz Camp instructors Jared Johnson (drums) and Bobby Brewer (guitar), They were joined on the faculty by Joseph Barger, aNSU jazz-studies major who, says Poole, “served in more of a mentor capacity for the students.”
The Jazz Hall also brought in two musicians from the University of North Texas, trumpeter Mike Steinel and trombonist Tony Baker.
In addition to teaching jazz saxophone and jazz trumpet, respectively, Poole and Steinelheaded up separate improvisation classes every morning of the camp, while McQuade taught piano and helped out in an area Poole refers to as “the drum room.”
“Especially in a week-long camp, drummers might not be as interested in the nuts and bolt of chords and scales,” he notes. “So the drummers went to a separate room where they work intensively with Scott McQuade and Jordan Hehl. As Jared Johnson gave them direction.”
The Jazz Camp musicians, ranging in age from 13 to 22, were each placed in one of four combos – the same four that are set to perform the Sunday evening concert.
“Every combo has a different coach,” says Poole. “I’m coaching one, Jared Johnson’s coaching one, Tony Baker’s coaching one, and Jordan Hehl’s coaching one. Then, all the rest of the faculty helps out during the combo rehearsals. If there was a piano player in one of the combos, for instance, Scott McQuade could show that pianist some ways to play. Bobby Brewer could shadow another guitar player, and even perform with a combo himself.”
In fact, he adds, many of the faculty members will likely be performing with their students at the Sunday event. “I imagine that some of these combo coaches, and some of the other faculty, are going to want to play – at least a little bit,” he says.
Among those looking forward to the show is Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh, who’s been following the progress of the students since the camp began.
“It’s amazing to see how these great young musicians advance over such a short period,” he says, “due to the instruction they receive from such incredible musicians and music educators as Dr. Tommy Poole and his faculty. We do a Jazz Camp show each year, and it’s always a highlight to see young musicians who have the fire.”
The Jazz Camp Combos concert is set to begin at 5p.m. Sunday, June 1, 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 918-281-1008. 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.
The event begins the Jazz Hall’s Summer 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.