Denny Morouse Band Features Annie Ellicott in Sunday Father’s Day Show
For world-class saxophonist Denny Morouse, Sunday’s Jazz Depot concert is a chance to pay tribute to the man who got him started on the road that would lead to stages and recording studios shared with Michael Jackson, Art Blakey, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, and John Lennon – among many others.
“My father was really a great musician, and in the ’30s and early ’40s, he had a radio show in Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania],” Morouse says. “He played banjo, trumpet, baritone, and button accordion. His grandfather was from Slovenia, and my dad was very well-known for playing Slovenian folk music; he taught me some of that when I was about six.
“We were a musical family, and we were a poor family, but my father would buy instruments and have people overhaul them. Then he’d sell them at a profit. That way, you could get an instrument cheaper than buying one at a store.”
Growing up in a small Pennsylvania town south of Pittsburgh called South Park, Morouse was first attracted to the drums, playing them from the age of six until about 12, when he took up the sax. He became a professional musician at 14, eventually leaving home to tour with the noted jazz drummer Art Blakey. In 1972, he replaced David Sanborn in Stevie Wonder’s band; as both saxophonist and bandleader, he toured internationally with Wonder for the next three years.
His many other notable jobs include working on John Lennon’s 1975 golden-oldies album, Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“It was just basic rock ‘n’ roll, and I thought, `Nothing to it,'” he recalls. “We just made up the horn lines for him. I remember him coming into the studio, wearing a sheriff’s badge.”
Morouse moved to Tulsa in 2010, and, as he notes, immediately “started going around listening to everybody in town and sitting in and stuff.” After several people told him he needed to take in a young vocalist named Annie Ellicott, he finally caught her act at the late Brookside club and restaurant, Ciao.
“I knew right when I heard her sing her first four bars that she had `It’ – capital I-t,” he says. “You know when someone has It, and she did. I just had to go up and say, `Man, Annie, you’ve got It. You’re great.'”
He ended up working with Ellicott several times, taking her to New York to record a couple of songs for his current disc, Dancing with You after You’ve Gone. He’ll have some of those CDs for sale at Sunday’s show. He’ll also have Ellicott herself; after moving to the Bay Area earlier this year, she’s back in town for Father’s Day.
As is the case with Morouse, Ellicott’s dad is a musician. He’s bassist Rod Ellicott, internationally known for his work with the jazz-rock band Cold Blood.
“So we can celebrate that, too,” Morouse says. “This is going to be a tribute to our fathers.”
Slated to join Morouse and Ellicott Sunday are drummer Michael Bremo and bassist-guitarist Stephen Schultz.
“Jim Rhea, from the Jazz Hall board, told me there was a new drummer in town,” Morouse says. “I went to hear him, and hearing him for the first time was like hearing Annie Ellicott. He’s got It. I’ve been thinking about using him for a long period of time, and the opportunity finally came up.
“He’s young,” adds Morouse, “a really great young drummer about 25 years old. He’s from the island of Aruba, and he’s spent time playing in Europe and New York City. He works with this young saxophone player named Alex Han.
“Michael recommended Stephen Schultz, and he’s really an amazing bass player. They’re both studying music at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. Michael’s working on his master’s degree in music, and I think Stephen is an undergraduate. They both play first chair in the jazz band down there, and they’re both just really sweet people – and serious about life, you know.”
The Denny Morouse Band featuring Annie Ellicott is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, June 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 http://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 Father’s Day show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 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 the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.