Vibraphonist Jay Garrett and Vocalist Sandy Gardner
Featured in Jazz Depot Concert
Tulsa’s Sandy Gardner started singing pop and jazz professionally some four decades ago, when she joined a Colorado Springs-based organization called the Charlie Westfall Orchestra, following a year as a student entertainer at Oklahoma State University. That job indirectly led to another one, singing with a trio at the USAF Academy Officers’ Club in the same city, where she met her future husband, 2013Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Famer Chuck Gardner, and the two began a life in music that continues today.
It continues, in fact, on Sunday, when pianist-composer Chuck plans to sit in with his wife and the evening’s co-star, vibraphonist Jay Garrett.
Playing together is hardly unusual for the Gardners. Sunday’s show, however, not only marks the first time she’s worked with Garrett, but also her first concert ever with a vibraphone player.
“It’s one of those funny things,” she says. “I guess we’ve never been in a city where there was a vibraphonist who played jazz that we could work with. But I think the sound is just delightful. And when Chuck does some of the songs with us, it just adds that extra layer of sound, a chord depth, that you just don’t get with a single piano.”
Working with vibes, and with Garrett in particular, she adds, “is so much fun. We’ve had a couple of rehearsals, and I really like the way he thinks in terms of arrangements. He puts a lot of thought into them, and he’s come up with some really cool ideas.”
One of the ideas Garrett had was to do the famous Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” as part of a two-tune medley.
“He really, really wanted to do `Raindrops,’ and I’d played it before, but it had never been in my vocal repertoire,” she recalls. “But I got the words, and because he wanted to do another song with it, we’re doing one of Chuck’s originals called `Rainy Day Love.’
“When we made the transition from `Raindrops’ to `Rainy Day Love,” in the rehearsal, I started singing [the up-tempo] `Rainy Day Love’ as a ballad. Chuck and I looked at each other and I said, `Oh, my gosh. Maybe we should have done this as a ballad a long time ago.’ We were blown away by how it changed the whole feel of the song. So we’re doing it a little bit as a ballad, and then the band will swing it. It’s a very nice arrangement.”
Although Sandy is a bassist as well as a vocalist, she’ll leave the bass work to Jordan Hehl on Sunday. Tony Yohe – like Hehl, a familiar presence on the Jazz Depot stage – is the drummer.
“I love to play bass, and I’d love to play a lot more bass,” Sandy says. “But the problem with being both a bass player and singer is that it takes every brain cell you have to do both those things. So you don’t have anyone out front who’s interacting with the audience. That’s an important thing, I think, in a concert, and I’m just not talented enough to do all three.” She laughs. “So I get to just sing, to be the front gal, and let the guys do their thing.”
Chuck, says his wife, is having so much fun working with Garrett and the rest of the group that his original role in the show has expanded.
“At first, he said he just wanted to do one or two songs, but at each rehearsal, he’s done more and more, They wanted to do a little bit of a [George] Shearing thing, the piano and vibes, so we’re doing `Don’t Blame Me,’ which has a really nice Shearing sound. And, of course, `Lullaby of Birdland.’ It’s fabulous to listen to those guys play together.”
Other planned tunes for the evening range from the Gershwin number “Soon” to Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me.” Drummer Yohe brought in an instrumental, “Recado Bossa Nova,” which Sandy says “just cooks,” and the group also plans its own take on classic big-band numbers like Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way.”
“I think we’ve got about 14 tunes or so,” she notes. “We’re going with fewer songs, and going more in depth with the ones we’ve got.”
Gardner, Garrett, and the group are set to begin at 5:00p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, 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.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 2013 Autumn 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.
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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.