Louisiana’s Louis Armstrong and Oklahoma’s Chet Baker were just about as well known for their singing as for their trumpet playing. That fact may go a long way toward explaining why those two jazz giants had a major influence on 7 Blue’s David Brennan, who possesses both those musical skills – and plays drums as well. He and his bandmates plan not only to feature songs made famous by Baker and Armstrong in Sunday’s Jazz Depot concert, but also to offer a visual presentation along with the music that will, as Brennan puts it, “show pictures in the background about the times when these songs were written and performed.”
The plan is to emphasize Armstrong numbers in 7 Blue’s first set, and Baker tunes in the second.
“We’ll sprinkle some instrumentals in, and move through the music somewhat chronologically,” Brennan explains. “We’re going to do probably four or five songs fromChet Baker Sings – everybody’s heard that [album], and they like it. We’ll do `Time After Time,’ ‘My Funny Valentine,’ `Another You.’ We’ll do `I Fall in Love Too Easily.’
“Louie is a lot easier for me to play, because he’s simple and he gives me a lot of space. I’m probably not as accomplished on Chet Baker’s stuff, because he’s very technical. But what I like about both of them, and why I’ve decided to feature them both, is that they’re both very melodic and lyrical in their approach to the instrument.”
Although many jazz fans are familiar with 7 Blue as a trio, Brennan says that the aggregation playing Sunday will be a quintet, adding Jeff Newsome on piano and Matt Leland on trombone. Damon Snow is the 7 Blue guitarist, Matt Hayes the bassist.
“There’ll be occasions Sunday when I bring the band down to just piano, bass, and trumpet, which Chet did a lot,” notes Brennan. “For the most part, though, there’ll be five of us.”
The origin of 7 Blue goes back some 10 years, after Australia native Brennan moved to the Tulsa area to start up a program in physical medicine at the Orthopedic Hospital of Oklahoma. A musician since his early teens, he’d performed for some two decades in Houston in a Dixieland jazz band called the Big Boys. One of its members was the big-name veteran Paul Buskirk, who, according to Brennan, “taught me jazz, starting with the basic New Orleans-style jazz, and then standards – that’s where I learned all that stuff.”
In Tulsa, he began hanging out at the Monday evening jam sessions at Harwelden, presided over by pianist Ted Moses, Out of that experience, eventually, came 7 Blue, in which Brennan was joined Tim DeMoss on piano and Mike Schmidt on bass.
“Mike and Tim and I played four about four years, in places like the Bourbon Street Café and Camerelli’s, where we played every Wednesday night for two years,” he recalls. “That’s when the band got really good. We added Dave Brashears on vibraphone, and in about 2006 we cut a CD called Riverside. It has originals by the band and several standards.
“We disbanded about a year later, I picked up Damon Snow and Matt Hayes, and we became a guitar trio.”
For a year and a half, that band played regularly at Jazzwich, the Wednesdaynoontime event at the Jazz Depot. It’s now at Hey Mambo every Wednesday andFriday night.
“When I first came to Tulsa, I was only going to stay for three years, because I had a house in the [Texas] hill country, and I was trying to get into the Austin music scene,” says Brennan. “But after three years, I decided to stay here, because this place had already shown me the history behind not just jazz, but all music. Tulsa was a little treasure that no one knew about. And I was inspired by my contact with local musicians to go back and work on my music. I’ve watched things grow over the past four or five years now, to really become a hotbed for jazz.”
7 Blue is set to begin at 5:00p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, 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, 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.
The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2013 Autumn Concert Series.