Those who catch Cow Bop’s show Tuesday, July 23, at the Jazz Depot may be in on the ground floor of something revolutionary.
The concert, according to Cow Bop guitarist and founder Bruce Forman, is part of what he terms “a linear music festival.”
“The traditional musical festival is like Woodstock, Coachella, the Monterey Jazz Festival, where people go to a specific place to listen to music, and bands show up,” he explains. “That idea has expanded to where whole towns, like Austin with South by Southwest and Port Townsend [Washington] become festivals. What I’m trying to do is create a linear festival down Route 66 for ten or eleven days, with all these bands playing, with their own itineraries and their own schedules, and then through social media, via Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, just put the story out on the Web.
“I’m just trying to create something new and celebrate the spirit of Route 66,” he adds. “I’m a teacher in residence at USC, so what I’ve done is make it into a collaborative learning experience, where all these bands – student bands, alumni bands, and faculty bands – are along on this trip. We have over a dozen bands out on the road, playing along Route 66, which is a linear community. We’re celebrating the road and teaching the culture of the road and how deeply imbedded it is in the music we play. We’re also adding youthful energy and helping out the economy of the road. It’s a very holistic attempt at something, and we’re sharing our information on a Website that has Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. It’s called lickson66.com.”
For the Tulsa show, Forman hopes to have a guest from his linear-festival tour sitting in with the Cow Bop lineup, which also includes vocalist Pinto Pammy, horn player David Wise, bassist Alex Frank, and drummer Jake Reed.
“I’m hoping an exceptional student of mine from USC, a fiddle player, will be in town at the same time and play a tune with us,’ he says.
Meanwhile, he’d also like to see Tulsa fiddler Shelby Eicher, who’s recorded and performed with Cow Bop, sit in as well. Eicher and his cohorts – including two of his sons — in the acoustic-jazz outfit Mischievous Swing are set to open the show.
“That band is really fantastic,” notes Forman. “Anything Shelby does is amazing.”
The West Coast-based Cow Bop was last in town in the fall, where they shared the Cain’s Ballroom stage with the Tulsa Playboys (a swing band that includes Eicher) in
an award-winning live broadcast of Public Radio Tulsa’s Swing on This, honoring the anniversary of the birth of western-swing figure Johnnie Lee Wills. On that night, Forman played many of the bop-oriented licks that have given him a high standing in jazz circles.
“Forman’s music demonstrates that jazz and western swing are closely aligned,” explains Jason McIntosh, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO. “The fact that Charlie Parker and Milton Brown inhabit the same musical universe is not surprising to Cow Bop fans.”
“Western swing to me has always been jazz music,” Forman says. “When you go back to its inception, with Bob Wills and Milton Brown [in the late 1920s-early 1930s], those guys were playing swing beat, which is exactly what the jazz musicians of the day were playing. They were doing many of the same tunes. It was all based on playing the melody and letting everybody show off their dazzling musicianship while keeping a really great groove going to keep the dancers happy.”
The biggest difference at the time was that the western swing musicians did it predominantly with stringed instruments, while the jazz players utilized more brass and reeds. Also, adds Forman, “They had different backgrounds, which created a slightly different sound.
“I’ve always believed that the whole idea of jazz is to play your way and bring all your influences and aesthetics to the music and make something happen,” he says. “On that point, I don’t see any difference between western swing and jazz, and to me it’s always been just strange that western swing was not considered a part of jazz history and tradition.
“I’m doing my part,” he concludes with a chuckle, “to make sure that’s corrected.”
Mischievous Swing is set to open the show for Cow Bop at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. Tickets can be purchased at the depot, fromwww.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15.00, reserved table seating $20.00. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10.00, and high school and junior high students for $5.00.
Cow Bop: The Best in Cowboy Jazz is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Summer Concert Series.