Like many acoustic-based groups, the long-lived Tulsa trio the Begonias play a couple of different kinds of gigs. There’s the restaurant and bar job, in which some of the audience is there for the music and others to fulfill their conversational, drinking and/or dining needs. And then there’s the listening-room situation – as is the case with Sunday’s Jazz Depot concert – in which the people are there expressly to see and hear the band, or at least to pay a lot of attention to it.
Most musicians prefer the latter, for reasons that are fairly obvious. But in the past, Begonias’ vocalist/bassist Terry Bentley has admitted that she was a bit more comfortable with the former.
“Well, the reason I said that was because [with a listening- room show] it’s totally quiet between songs and everyone’s looking right at you,” she explains with a laugh. “Rick and David were always looking at one another and going, “um,” so I said, `Somebody needs to talk between songs.’
“They both said, `You can.’ So they put it all on me.”
She laughs again. “I said, `Okay. Fine. I’m the one who’s funny anyway, so it’s okay.’”
Not that any of the three Begonias are exactly rookies when it comes to facing audiences. In addition to her long run with the Begonias (known earlier as Ruby’s Begonia), Terry was earlier a part of the popular Tulsa-based folk duo Sisters of the Sun. Her husband, Rick, who’s been singing and playing guitar and banjo with the Begonias from the beginning, was best-known in the 1980s for his work in the bluegrass group the Sons of the Boutonnieres. Blues aficionados may remember his work in an unusual and intriguing trio with singer E.G. Kight and Sons of the Boutonniers fiddler Rick Morton, in which Bentley played blues banjo. And those whose rock ‘n’ roll memories stretch back to the ‘70s might recall drummer David Blue’s groups, Totty and Bliss, both of which made some national noise. (Bliss famously opened for the Sex Pistols at the Cain’s Ballroom in early 1978.)
With all those musical influences, you might figure that the Begonias’ repertoire would draw from a variety of genres. Indeed, it does, with much of it influenced by what the Bentleys seek out on Sirius XM Radio.
“Rick and I have a little bit different tastes in music,” says Terry. “I listen to more alternative music, and he listens to Siriusly Sinatra – a lot of that, and a lot of Elvis. When I’m in the car, my favorite thing is [the folk-music channel] The Coffee House. I grew up listening to folk music, so that’s probably why I have a tendency to go to that. I also listen for a lot of duet music we could do.
“When we’re in the car together,” she adds, “we listen to Tony Bennett, stuff like that. We started listening to that music early on, and we’re still listening to it.”
For Sunday’s show, notes Terry, the Begonias have worked up an arrangement of the Bennett classic “I Wanna be Around,” as well as a Guy Clark alt-country tune called “All He Wants Is You” and a duet, “If I Didn’t Know Better,” originally recorded by the folk band the Civil Wars. She and Rick first heard it on the TV series Nashville.
While they’re obviously presenting several different kinds of songs Sunday, Terry says the emphasis will be on jazz and standards – especially given the nature of the venue.
“We always do `Mack the Knife’; we’ve been doing that forever. Probably, we’ll do `Come Fly with Me’ and the Dean Martin song, `You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.’ And we’ve added another one we really enjoy, `Something Stupid,” which we do pretty much the way Frank and Nancy [Sinatra] did it.”
Sunday marks the third time the Begonias have played the Jazz Depot, with their most recent show staged in March of last year. Terry says the group always enjoys playing the Depot and especially appreciates the work of Depot sound engineer Ron Alexander.
“The sound is nice in there,” she says, “and he does a really good job.”
The Begonias are set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, March 29th, 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.
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 Oklahomansthrough the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.
*Photos courtesy of Bill Gaddis