In vocalist Booker Gillespie, Myron Oliver has found a kindred spirit – especially when it comes to the local music scene. Like saxophonist Oliver, Gillespie not only performs a lot in and around Tulsa; he also appreciates the amount of talent he sees and hears when he’s a member of the audience.
“So Booker and I decided to book a variety show,” says Oliver. “Whatever we do, we’re big supporters of local talent, no matter what genre or what style it is. This is a chance for us to play with the guys – some of the guys, at least – we like, and get to share some of that local talent on the Jazz Hall stage.”
Oliver has been down this path before, most recently in October of 2012, when he brought a similar variety of talent to the Jazz Depot in a well-received event billed as the Myron Oliver Friday Night Showcase.
“And for the most part,” he notes, “we’ve got different people than I had on that one. There’s so much talent in Tulsa. You can go out every night and hear somebody different and be equally wowed by what you hear.”
Oliver and Gillespie have both been wowing Tulsa crowds themselves, both together and separately, for the past several years. In addition to performing jazz-oriented shows together, Gillespie sings with Oliver’s busy cover band, FuZed.
“We wanted to do something a little bit different from what we do when we’re playing in front of the party dance crowd on the late-night thing,” explains Oliver, “so we put together a band of musicians that aren’t the ones we normally play with – some of our musical cohorts. We’ve got Adrion Robbins, who’s played keyboards with Charlie Redd and Starr Fisher and a bunch of different people. Randy Cook is playing drums. I’m in another band, called Echo, with him. Travis Fite is playing guitar, and David Mooney’s on bass.
“We’ve got a variety of different music and some guest singers. Of course, the ladies from FuZed [Tina Phillips and Oliver’s wife, Tylisha Oliver] are going to sing a few songs and do some background vocals. We’ve got some Stevie Ray Vaughan in the set from Dylan Whitney, a young guitar player who’s one of my favorites. I think he’s 17 years old now, but I’ve known him since he was about 13. He’s been a professional for years. He’s just amazing.”
Another youngster on the bill is vocalist Alexsa Oliver, Myron and Tylisha’s fourteen-year-old daughter. Other featured performers include saxophonist Paul Chatman and singer Benjamin Smith.
“I met Paul at the Jazz Hall, at one of the Tuesday Night Jams, probably six months ago or so, and we hit it off well. Since then, he’s been my go-to guy on saxophone, whenever I’m needing another horn to fill out a full band song, or to fill in on a gig that someone’s contacted me about. I want to get him some gigs out there and give him some exposure.
“Benjamin Smith is like the king of karaoke, and I say that in the best way. I met him a year and a half or two years ago, and I’ve been trying to get him up on stage with a band. The guy can sing. He puts you in mind of Luther Vandross or Teddy Pendergrass, and I had to get him in on this.”
Then, of course, there’ll be the contributions of Gillespie and Oliver.
“Booker’s going to unveil an original song, a blues tune, and we’ve got a few other blues tunes on there,” says Oliver. “We’ve got a couple of standards, a little neo-soul, some R&B and jazz-funk. I’ve got some songs that are just going to be saxophone, with no vocals, so we’ll spread things out pretty well.
“Booker and I like a lot of the same kinds of music, and while we know that people will always try to put you in a box, we’re so far outside of any box people would want to put us in,” he adds with a laugh. “We’re diverse in the types of music we like and can perform well. Booker’s got an original country song – he loves country music. And my band, FuZed, covers everything. If they request country, we play country. If they request pop and rock, we can do that. Having that common life in music makes it fun for us.”
And, he notes, it’s also fun to present a variety of music to the audiences at the Jazz Depot.
“For us to be able to get somebody who’s known for rock or for R&B to be on that stage playing jazz, blues, funk, soul, whatever, just sheds light on how diverse the Jazz Hall really is and how much it supports music in general. It’s called the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, but people don’t know that any artistry is accepted and welcome there.”
The Myron and Booker Variety Show is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, 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.jazzhalltickets.com, or by calling 918-928-JAZZ. 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. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
The show is the first in the Jazz Hall’s 2015 Spring 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.