Oklahoma-Israeli Exchange Announces Winner
Young Artist Jordan Hehl to be showcased this Sunday
Sunday, for the first time ever, the past three winners of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange’s Young Artists Competition will perform on the same stage.
Also for the first time ever, the newest winner is a bass player.
Tulsa jazz bassist Jordan Hehl recently won the 2013 competition, awarded in 2012 to Steven Schrag and in 2011 by Barron Ryan, who are both pianists. Of course, there are a lot fewer solo bassists than there are solo piano players, so when Hehl auditioned, he brought along a couple of his longtime musical cohorts: drummer Nicholas Foster and a pianist, who happened to be Schrag.
“I didn’t want it to be a solo audition, because I’m a bass player, and when you play bass, it’s all about how you play with a group,” Hehl explains. “A lot of the best bass playing is done under the other players; that’s the function of the instrument. It’s great to have a bass player who’s a good soloist, but you could have someone who never,
ever took a solo, and he could be the perfect bass player.”
With that in mind, Hehl chose to audition with some pieces he enjoyed performing with the trio, rather than anything to show himself off.
“We opened up with `Billy’s Bounce,’ a Charlie Parker tune. I hadn’t had a chance to warm up because I was just coming in from work, and that’s the fastest song we did. So it was kind of intense and just for a second a little bit shaky, but we got it all together,” he remembers. “We did an original of mine, called `The Comedown,’ which I wrote for my senior project at TU, and then we did a tune by the Meters called `Stormy,’ a really mellow tune.
“They asked if we had anything else, and we picked a swing tune we all knew, `Bye, Bye Blackbird.’ That was one where I felt really comfortable and was able to step out a little bit.”
“It’s funny,” he adds with a chuckle. “Afterwards, they [the judges] said, `That wasn’t a very showy piece.’ I said, `Oh. Well, that’s the one I like playing the most.’ I was thinking, `Gosh, that was great’ and they were saying, `Well, you probably shouldn’t have played that one.’
“I’d guessed that some of them were musicians, but I wasn’t thinking about it much,” he recalls. “Then afterwards, they told me who they were. I said, `Thank you for not telling me before I started playing,'” he says with another chuckle.
The judges for the Oklahoma Israel Exchange (OKIE) competition included the principal bassist and other members of the Israel Symphony Orchestra, a fact Hehl didn’t know until after his turn on stage.
Sunday, Hehl will bring the same trio to the Jazz Depot stage for his portion of the show. The three, known collectively as the Ghost Quartet, play Tuesdays as house band for the Depot’s jam sessions, Wednesdays for the Depot’s Jazzwich lunch-hour shows, and Thursdays at the Vault in Tulsa.
“We play three- and four-hour gigs all the time, so we’ve got a bunch of material together,” he says. “So [Sunday] we’ll do some originals and original arrangements. A lot of what we do with the Ghost Quartet is take rock songs and put our own weird spin on them. We just did Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon [at the Jazz Depot]. We do songs by Radiohead, and the Beatles’ `Come Together.’
“What we’re trying to do,’ he adds, “is take the jazz format and make it accessible to kids our age. When they hear a saxophone and acoustic bass and piano and drums, their ears automatically shut off and they say, `Well, okay, that’s jazz, and that’s not what I listen to.’ But if we do a song they recognize, then we can kind of introduce the format to them that way. I mean, we love the old standards, but I think a lot of the time when we play them we feel like we’re just imitators. What we’re trying to do is connect jazz with a lot of the music we grew up listening to.”
The OKIE Competition winners are set to begin at 5p.m. Sunday, June 8, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-1008. 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 event is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Summer 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.