BILL & PAM’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE CELEBRATES 33 YEARS OF JAZZY TOGETHERNESS
In addition to all the live music from some of the areas top jazz performers, there’ll be something else of interest on display at the Jazz Depot Sunday: A blowup of a photo from September 5, 1982, taken by renowned Tulsa photographer Gaylord Herron.
“He’s my brother-in-law, and he took that picture with one of those cameras that had an 8″X10″ negative,” explains Bill Crosby. “So it’s a great big photo of our wedding, showing all the people who were there, out in our backyard.”
Central to the shot are Crosby and his then-new bride, Pam Van Dyke, who celebrate 33 years as a married couple at Sunday’s show. And while their personal lives had only intersected a year or so before Herron snapped that photo, bassist Crosby and vocalist Van Dyke had both been professionals on the Tulsa music scene for decades by then.
“We’d known each other a long time before we ever got together,” Crosby says. “I remember years ago, when I was working at the Hilton with [pianist] Bob Clear, she was working down the street with a group called the Sound of Four. When we’d finish, we’d go over and listen to ’em. More than likely, she sat in a few times with us, too.”
Later, he adds, “I was [bandleader and keyboardist] Sammy Pagna’s bassist; I’d worked with him off and on ever since I was a kid, almost, going back to the ’60s. In 1981, he was doing a benefit of some kind at the Old Lady on Brady and he wanted a singer. Kenny Mills was his guitar player, and he and Pam had been working together a lot. So Kenny said, `Why don’t you get Pam to sing?’ At that time, Sammy was doing dances every Wednesday night at the Caravan [Ballroom], and they invited her over to the next one and she sat in. That’s when Pam and I got started.”
The song Pam ended up singing with Pagna’s band at the benefit was Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour.” Thirty-four years later, it’s also going to be one of the numbers she performs at their wedding-anniversary concert on Sunday.
“We’ve gone through our list and found some of the old songs we started out with,” her husband says. “We’ve got so many that we won’t have time to do them all, but besides `My Cherie Amour,’ we’ll do stuff like `Without A Song,’ `Caravan,’ `[Take the] “A” Train,’ `On A Clear Day,’ and ‘This Masquerade,’ which is the best song Leon Russell ever wrote.”
Crosby actually played some jobs during the late 1950s with Russell and drummer Chuck Blackwell. Russell was a student at Will Rogers High School then, still using his given name of Russell Bridges. The three had met earlier at a legendary Tulsa jazz club.
“When I was working at the Rubiyat, Leon was in high school, and he and Blackwell would come out and sit in. He was a jazzer. He didn’t play rock ‘n’ roll back then. But he got smart,” notes Crosby with a laugh.
Among the guests scheduled to take the Jazz Depot stage Sunday are Sonny Gray, the well-known Tulsa pianist who owned the Rubiyat. He joins an impressive lineup that includes fellow keyboardists Tim Shadley, Charles Gardner, and Jack Wolfe.
Other well-known performers on the bill include drummers Anthony Yohe, Wade Robertson, and Ron McCrory; trumpeters Mike Bennett and Mike Moore; vocalists Sandy Gardner and Cindy Cain; saxophonist Victor Anderson; and bassists Jim Bates and Dean DeMerritt, along with Crosby himself. In addition to being the top jazz names in town, “these are just people we play with these days,” notes Crosby.
Many of them, however, go back with one or both of the Crosbys a long time. And in at least one case, the connection is intergenerational.
“Dean DeMerritt’s mom and dad were both at our wedding,” Crosby points out. “His name was Dean DeMerritt too, a jazz piano player. Tony[Yohe] and I worked with him a bunch, back in the day.”
Bill & Pam’s Excellent Adventure is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, September 6, 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 show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2015 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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.