Although there are a lot of factors that go into making a show a hit, it’s hard to go wrong with a concert full of Cole Porter music. In his four-plus decades as a songwriter and composer, the Indiana native contributed scores of classic tunes to the Great American Songbook, including such evergreens as “Night and Day,” “I Get A Kick out of You,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.”
Porter’s drawing power has always been celebrated by the Oklahoma Jazz Hallof Fame, since a Cole Porter show was included in the Jazz Hall‘s initial slate of concerts. That first show was a success, and Jazz Hall-produced Porter concerts quickly became highly anticipated events. Today, CEO Jason McIntosh carries on the tradition, as does Tulsa’s First Lady of Jazz, vocalist Pam Van Dyke Crosby.
“I was on the first Cole Porter show produced,” she says, “and that was back when the Jazz Hall was at the Greenwood Cultural Center. We’ve had one just about every year since.”
Crosby’s producing the latest one, dubbed Too Darn Hot: A Cole Porter Review. And “just to have something a little bit different,” she’s decided to go with all female vocalists. To that end, she’s enlisted some of Tulsa’s finest jazz singers; scheduled to perform Sunday are Sandy Gardner, Cynthia Simmons, Olivia Duhon, Cindy Cain,Angie Cockrell, Louiza Cornelius, Stephanie Oliver, and Ashlee Elmore, as well as Pam herself. The only name on that list that might not be familiar to Jazz Depot audiences is Elmore, who recently moved to town and became the director of the Tulsa Children’s Chorus.
“She’s a young woman, a good singer,” says Crosby.”She just did a show with Olivia [Duhon] at the Jazz Hall, and I heard her sing [Porter’s] `I’ve Got You under My Skin.’ I’ve heard her sing a couple of times before, and I thought she’d be good for this.”
Once she assembled her cast for the Porter show, Crosby gave each vocalist the option of either choosing from a group of arrangements done by Oklahoma JazzHall of Famer Chuck Gardner or picking other Porter songs they liked. This freedom of choice, she says, led to “some unusual tunes” set for Sunday, including a couple selected by Cindy Cain. Those are “High Society Calypso,” from the 1956 movie High Society, and “Find Me A Primitive Man,” which debuted in the 1929 Broadway musical Fifty Million Frenchmen but is probably better known by today’s audiences because of its memorable performance by Madeline Kahn in the 1975 film At Long Last Love.
“Cole Porter’s songs have everything,” notes Crosby. “The lyrics are very intelligent and sometimes funny, the melodies are interesting and sometimes challenging – like in `Begin the Beguine.’ And they lend themselves to all kinds of different rhythms. You can take a Cole Porter tune and make it a swing tune, or a nice Latin tune. You can do them as ballads. They’re just timeless. I love his songs.”
In addition to each vocalist doing the songs she’s picked, there’ll be at least one duet and one trio performance over the course of the evening. And, while the singers will all be women, the band is all-male, a trio of top-notch players enjoyed often by Jazz Depot patrons: pianist Scott McQuade, bassist Bill Crosby, and drummer Tony Yohe.
“They’ve played the Cole Porter shows, too, but it’s not a reprise, because some of the guy songs we’ve done in the past will be sung by gals,” explains Pam. “`I’ve Got You Under My Skin,’ for instance, is usually done by a guy, but we’re going to have it in our show. I just think it’s all going to be really fun and interesting.”
Too Darn Hot: A Cole Porter Revueis set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, October 5th, 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, 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 Autumn Concert Series.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fameis 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.