A group called Left Side Right, Right Side Left plays its first official gig at the Jazz Depot this Sunday. And while the band itself is brand-new, the members are all stars of the local scene. They include vocalist Pam Van Dyke Crosby, pianist Scott McQuade, vibraphonist Jay Garrett, bassist Bill Crosby, and drummer Tony Yohe.
The purpose of the group, says Crosby, its bass player, is to expose audiences to some top-notch original material as well as a few seldom-heard but eminently worthwhile tunes from thecatalogues of jazz greats.
“We’d been getting together over at Tony’s, just for fun, working up a few things,” he explains. “Then I thought about a song Scott wrote for his CD, which came out around ’08, back when he was in Florida. It’s called `Left Side Right, Right Side Left.’ It’s a jazz tune until it gets to a bridge-type place, and the lyrics go, “left side right.” Then we do some music, then “right side left.” Pam sings the lyrics, and they’re spoken by the band members. We’re going to use that as an intro song and for the name of the band.
“We figured it was a good name for us, because it’s sort of politically correct,” he adds with a laugh. “We’ve got a liberal, a conservative, an independent, and a Canadian.”
Crosby says that Left Side Right, Right Side Left plans to perform three more of McQuade’s originals Sunday, as well as a number that was written years ago by the band’s vocalist.
“It’s called `One for Ray,’” he says. “[Late Tulsa pianist] George Dennie wrote the music, and Pam wrote the lyrics. It was dedicated it to [veteran area saxophonist] Ray DeGeer. They wrote and recorded the song back in the ’80s; we have it on one of our old CDs.”
Pam also picked a couple of other tunes to sing on Sunday: the standard “Stella by Starlight” and a lesser-known number, John Coltrane’s “Equinox.”
“It’s an old jazz tune with lyrics, not too intricate,” says Crosby of the latter. “It’s just nice.”
Also nice, if more challenging, is another vintage jazz song, this one written by Sammy Nestico and performed most notably by the Count Basie Orchestra.
“It’s called `Fun Time,’ and it’s just crazy,” Crosby notes with another laugh. “It’s 11/4 time, something like that. It goes from three-four to four-four time, back and forth. It’s hard to explain. I learned it from [pianist] Teddy Moses back in the ’60s, and I kind of introduced it to everybody around here. Scott and Tony and I played it a few times at Ciao. It’s got a real hard melody and it takes a lot of practice to get it, but Jay’s got it on vibes. Boy, he’s a great reader.”
In addition to the originals and less-familiar standards, the members of Left Side Right, Right Side Left will probably “throw in a few ringers,” as Crosby puts it, some jazz numbers that will be more familiar to the crowd.
“People have a tendency to like what they know,” he says. “If we play a whole bunch of stuff that they may not know – well, I’m not sure. But the people who come out to the Jazz Depot are pretty open-minded about what they’re going to get, so I think it’ll be all right.”
Not only will this be the first performance of the group, he adds, there’s a chance it could be the only performance the band ever gives. Crosby says the members “have no idea” whether they’ll seek other gigs as Left Side Right, Right Side Left.
“You know how it goes: any band that does a CD or has a picture taken always breaks up right afterwards,” he notes with a chuckle. “So we’re kind of leery about all of that. We’re just taking it one gig at a time. This’ll be the first one.”
Left Side Right, Right Side Left is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, August 10, 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 918-281-8609. 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 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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.