New Collection of 12,000 Photographs Chronicles the American Jazz Scene


A donation from the family of photographer and historian Duncan Schiedt captures the music’s “essence”

Photographer Duncan Schiedt shot exclusively in black and white. He wanted to capture the gradients of feeling that jazz evokes, or what he saw as the music’s “essence.” Schiedt once said, “Jazz is a black and white music. Its range, from blinding brilliances to deepest shadings, seems to demand the drama that black and white can so easily provoke.

Schiedt’s family recently donated a body of the photographer’s work to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, some 26-to-30 cubic feet of material that includes more than 12,000 images, both Schiedt’s own images as well as historical photos that the photographer collected. The collection, says the museum’s John Edward Hasse is “one of the largest photo archives in jazz history.”

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**Pictured above Duke Ellington with his arm around Billy Strayhorne  1940-1941

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CynSings Ella: Cynthia Simmons Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. Another look at a very special night…


“This was just one of those moments in time where you just wished time would stand still and this would go on forever”. That’s how several people in attendance described Cynthia Simmons and the band’s performance Sunday night at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. This was a much anticipated event and it didn’t disappoint, once the downbeat hit the magic began. The night started with one of Ella’s most popular songs A Tisket A Tasket and then took you on a melodic journey through Ella’s life. You may have hopped on the A Train , In a Sentimental Mood, but that didn’t last long because the show was Too Darn Hott!


One of the reasons this show was so successful was the all-star line up of musicians. Dean Demerritt, Frank Brown, Wade Robertson, and Dr. Mike Moore made the music come to life. Each musician, highly talented  and respected in the jazz community, could  have headlined this or any other show, but the crowd was treated to the collective sounds of this incredible group…and a treat it was.

The Ear Candy just kept coming with songs like Paper Moon, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, Do Nothing Til You Hear from Me, Cry Me a River and a wonderful rendition of Can’t We be Friends  performed by Cynthia and Darell Christopher.CynSimm_116


Cynthia also shared with the audience a brief history and some little know fact about Ella’s life, her struggles and her triumphs. The room was filled with smiling faces, tappin’ toes, boppin’ heads, and joyous applause, like we said at the start of the post, it was truly a special evening 🙂

Photos courtesy of Bill Gaddis Photography.

This show was a TulsaJazz.Com Production.

Just in case you had the misfortune of missing this show, here is a video of Cynthia and the band performing Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered…Enjoy 🙂



Jerome Dabney Performing at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.

Cynthia Simmons web sm (1)Dear Jazz Hall Friends,

My Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame tribute to Ella Fitzgerald-originally scheduled for this Sunday-has been moved to next Sunday, November 16. I’m recovering from an unfortunate bout of laryngitis, so Jerome Dabney and the Dean DeMerritt Jazz Tribehave graciously stepped in to take over this Sunday’s show.

Vocalist Jerome Dabney–headlining his first Jazz Depot performance–has been delighting audiences all over the world for the last thirty six years, as he has performed on stage, in film, on world tours, and aboard cruise ships. Dabney performs alongside the Dean DeMeritt Jazz Tribe, featuring Scott McQuade on keys, Wade Robertson on drums, and DeMeritt on bass.

To enjoy the jazz, call Bettie Downing at (918) 928-JAZZ or purchase your tickets online. Members and Seniors enjoy discounted ticket prices at $10.00 each. General Admission tickets are only $15.00, or $20.00 for Reserved Table Seating. High school and middle school students admitted for only $5.00.

Yours in jazz,

Cynthia Simmons




          Last month, Tulsa’s Jerome Dabney celebrated 30 years as a cruise-ship performer. And as he’s sung for those crowds over the past three decades, the entertainer known in the cruise industry as “Mr. Motown” has made quite a few adjustments to his repertoire.

“It’s really been one of those evolving situations,” he explains. “When I first started, I was doing a tribute show – not impersonations, but tributes to the music of Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, those artists. And then as the years passed, the audiences changed, and now there are a lot of really big Motown fans out there. I would say that in two years, if you’re going to be an entertainer in the cruise industry, it might be your best bet to do a lot of disco-type stuff. The people who have the time and money to cruise are usually older people, so you want to be able to appeal to the majority of your crowd.”

For the past decade or so, both on sea and on land, Dabney has done a lot to earn that “Mr. Motown” tag – which, he notes, is “a monicker one of the cruise directors I worked with gave me, and it kind of stuck.” Over the past decade, he’s toured internationally with Tribute – A Salute to the Temptations, branching out from Las Vegas to dates in England, Japan, and South America, as well as other spots around the globe. He also does a regular Motown show, a Stevie Wonder show, and, in 2012, toured Asia with the World Famous Platters, playing dates in the Philippine Islands and Singapore and appearing on a cruise ship in Malaysia.

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Sunday, however, Mr. Motown becomes Mr. Standards, as Dabney returns to the music he began performing on ships back in the mid-’80s.

“What I plan to do on Sunday are the traditional jazz standards,” he says. “I was talking to Dean DeMerritt the other day, and I was telling him there are a lot of jazz tunes out there that are quote-unquote `jazzy-jazzy’ – like `Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most.’ That’s a jazzy-jazzy song; your jazz connoisseur is going to know that song, but someone who just enjoys jazz music may not. I don’t think a lot of effort is being spent on the basic jazz standard. When’s the last time you heard someone singing `Misty’? So I told Dean, `I’m just going to offer up as many classic standards as I possibly can.’

“The show I do now is called An Evening of Motown Classics,” he adds. “But this show is going to be An Evening of Jazz Classics. I have a Nat King Cole medley I’m going to offer, and some of the really basic standard songs: `Satin Doll,’ `Misty,’ `Tenderly.’ I’ll do a couple of `jazzy-jazzy’ songs, too.”

“Tenderly,” in fact, was the tune that brought DeMerritt and Dabney together. As DeMerritt remembered it, he and guitarist Frank Brown were hosting a jazz jam session in the Centennial Lounge of Tulsa’s VFW Post 577. It was July, and DeMerritt had just returned to his native Tulsa after spending several years on the Atlanta scene.

“We saw this guy who was intently listening to us play, and then he came up and said, `I’d love to do “Tenderly” with you,'” remembers DeMerritt. “We thought, `If he wants to do “Tenderly” here, in this VFW hall, we’d better go ahead and let him do it.’ And from his first chorus, we both knew he was something special.”

In addition to DeMerritt on bass, Sunday’s Dean DeMerritt Jazz Tribe lineup includes Scott McQuade on piano and Wade Robertson on drums.

“I went to the jam session at the Jazz Depot about a month ago on a Tuesday evening, and I did one or maybe two songs,” says Dabney. “But this will be my first time on the main stage. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be great.”

An Evening of Jazz Classics with Jerome Dabney and the Dean DeMerritt JazzTribe is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, November 9, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall ofFame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 East First Street.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-928-JAZZ (5299). 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 2014 Autumn 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.

The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame





2014 Jazz Eureka Festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Sept 9 to Sept 14

Jazz it up in Eureka Springs During Jazz Eureka

The annual Jazz Eureka festival will take place in Eureka Springs from Tuesday, Sept. 9 to Sunday, Sept. 14. The exciting week-long event will feature live music, delicious food and exciting attractions and events.fayetteville-jazz-collective

The Fayetteville Jazz Collective, an 18-piece big band, will perform on Friday, Sept. 12 in The Auditorium at 36 S. Main St..   The FJC, under the direction of Ben Harris will present new, original material.  The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $12.

The Last Southern Gentlemen Tour brings two members of America’s jazz dynasty to The Auditorium.  Jazz legend Ellis Marsalis, Jr., along with his son, Delfeayo Marsalis, will headline the festival, appearing at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13.  This tour marks the first time the father and son have performed and recorded together on a project. Ellis Marsalis is the premier, modernist jazz pianist of New Orleans and the patriarch of the Marsalis family, father of jazz musicians Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis.Delfeayo-and-Ellis-345x290

The tour’s album, “The Last Southern Gentlemen,” features standard and original compositions and is “relaxed, thoughtful and provocative, acknowledging the love and respect of all people shared by Louis Armstrong and most early jazz entertainers.”

Tickets to the show range from $25 to $47.50 and are on sale now for both Auditorium shows at

Free, outdoor concerts of jazz music will be presented in Basin Spring Park on Spring Street as well.  On Friday evening, trumpeter Rodney Block will perform a free concert beginning at 5 p.m. and lasting until 7 p.m.

On Saturday, there will be more music in the park all afternoon with Matt and Gus Smith, Brandon Mezzelo, Walter Savage and Northeast State University Jazz All Stars, featuring Tommy Poole, from noon until 6 p.m.tommy poole 1

New events have been added for Jazz Eureka 2014.   On Tuesday, Sept. 9, The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, located at 515 Main St., will host The Speakeasy from 7-9 p.m.  Food and drinks will be served and admission is $10.   For reservations, call 479-253-7444 or email

Wednesday evening, a Great Gatsby-style lawn party with live jazz music, games, food, fire dancing and a performance by Intrigue Theater will take place at the gardens of the Crescent Hotel at 75 Prospect St. from 7-10 p.m. Admission is $10 and light hors d’oeuvres will be served. For more information, call 479-253-9766.

Saturday morning, the White Street Farmer’s Market, located in the Ermilio’s parking lot at 26 White St., will present “Jazz at the Market” with music from Bossa Screwnova and J Funk from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Saturday evening, art galleries on Main and Spring streets will be open late for their monthly Second Saturday Gallery Stroll, with jazz music, art and refreshments from 6-10 p.m.

After the Marsalis concert on Saturday evening, DeVito’s at 5 Center St. is hosting the Jazz Martini After Party. Beginning at 9 p.m., there will be live jazz, food and drinks, including a special “Marsalis Martini.”

Sunday September 14th, the Crystal Dining Room at the Crescent Hotel will have a Sunday Jazz Brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a Jazz trio and dancing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Adults are $24.95, children ages 5-12 are $9.95 and 4 and under are free.

For further information, visit or call 479-253 7333.

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Steve Ham and The Jambalaya Jass Band Perform at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

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 Long-Lived Jambalaya Jass Band Begins Jazz Depot’s Winter Concert Series

            If you’ve ever wondered why trombonist Steve “Hambone” Ham and trumpeter Mike Bennett play so uncannily well together, it’s because they’ve had plenty of practice. As Ham recalls it, the two played their first job as a duo back in 1976 – on a stage light-years away from the listening-room atmosphere of the Jazz Depot, where they’re performing with Ham’s Jambalaya Jass Band on Sunday.

            “It was over at the Golden Hurricane Lounge, that old strip joint,” Ham says with a chuckle. “I was 19 and he was 18; I was playing sousaphone and he was playing trumpet. We’d go in there and play blues and some old Dixieland tunes, New Orleans tunes. I think they paid us ten dollars a night and all the beer we could drink. The first weekend we were there, somebody got stabbed. The second weekend, there was a gunshot. And we left and never went back.”

They may have left that gig for good, but, individually and together, they never left the music. Students in the University of Tulsa’s music program at the time, they both went on to carve out careers as two of Tulsa’s top instrumentalists, positions they still hold today.

Among his other musical jobs, Bennett has been the trumpeter for Ham’s group from the beginning, which came about not all that long after the duo’s debut at the Golden Hurricane Lounge.

As Ham remembers it, he was playing in a Dixieland band run by “a businessman who just cracked whips on guys.” After a blowup over a job that Ham had helped book for the group, the leader suggested that it might be better if Ham went off and formed his own band.

“I said, `That ain’t no problem,’ and that’s when we named the band,” he says. “It was sometime in the early ’80s.”Steve Ham's Jambalaya Jazz Band

Ham’s Jambalaya Jass Band has been entertaining audiences ever since, with a lineup that fluctuates somewhat but usually includes, in addition to Ham and Bennett, the veterans Bill Crosby on bass and Tony Yohe on drums, both of whom are set to be a part of things on Sunday. Ham’s son Heath Ham, heard most recently on the Diffident Rebel CD Red Dirt Reggae, plays guitar.

It may be because he chafed under the leadership of a “whip-cracker” all those years ago, but Ham has made sure from the beginning to allow the musicians in his group plenty of freedom. In fact, he pretty much insists on it.

“In most gigs, there’s a box you’ve got to kind of stay in,” he explains. “In myband, I could care less. Just play whatever you want to play. I mean, I don’t want to play stuff that’s above an audience’s head. I don’t want to sound like Coltrane. But we just never know what we’re going to do when we play. I may change tunes right in the middle of a song, and I’ll expect my guys to go with me. Or they may change the tune. We just

never know.”

He doesn’t even quite know how to label the music performed by the group, which many would describe as Dixieland jazz.steve ham 2

“I guess I call mine more New Orleans stuff,” he says. “I don’t really know what Dixieland is. I like [Louis] Armstrong, and I like the Olympia Brass Band, those brass bands down in New Orleans. We’ve got some of that happening.”

Still, he adds, there’s at least one classic Dixieland tune that the Jambalaya Jass Band ends up doing at just about every appearance.

“We usually play `When the Saints Go Marching In,'” he says. “I get asked a lot to do `Rosetta,’ too. I’ll have a list of tunes in front of me, just in case I can’t remember the names of some of ’em. But sometimes, I’ll just start playing, and the band’ll follow me. Or Bennett’ll go, `You’re putting them to sleep. Let’s play this.'”

Ham laughs. “What that means is, `Let’s play something that features me, `Bone. Let’s play something I can show off on.’

“And why not?” Ham adds with another laugh. “He’s a hell of a trumpet player.”

Steve Ham’s Jambalaya Jass Band is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 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,, 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 the first in the Jazz Hall’s 2013-14 Winter 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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.

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7 Blue In Concert at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

7 Blue Spotlights the Music of Armstrong and Baker in Sunday’s Jazz Depot Show

            Louisiana’s Louis Armstrong and Oklahoma’s Chet Baker were just about as well known for their singing as for their trumpet playing. That fact may go a long way toward explaining why those two jazz giants had a major influence on 7 Blue’s David Brennan, who possesses both those musical skills – and plays drums as well. He and his bandmates plan not only to feature songs made famous by Baker and Armstrong in Sunday’s Jazz Depot concert, but also to offer a visual presentation along with the music that will, as Brennan puts it, “show pictures in the background about the times when these songs were written and performed.”

The plan is to emphasize Armstrong numbers in 7 Blue’s first set, and Baker tunes in the second.

“We’ll sprinkle some instrumentals in, and move through the music somewhat chronologically,” Brennan explains. “We’re going to do probably four or five songs fromChet Baker Sings – everybody’s heard that [album], and they like it. We’ll do `Time After Time,’ ‘My Funny Valentine,’ `Another You.’ We’ll do `I Fall in Love Too Easily.’

“Louie is a lot easier for me to play, because he’s simple and he gives me a lot of space. I’m probably not as accomplished on Chet Baker’s stuff, because he’s very technical. But what I like about both of them, and why I’ve decided to feature them both, is that they’re both very melodic and lyrical in their approach to the instrument.”

Although many jazz fans are familiar with 7 Blue as a trio, Brennan says that the aggregation playing Sunday will be a quintet, adding Jeff Newsome on piano and Matt Leland on trombone. Damon Snow is the 7 Blue guitarist, Matt Hayes the bassist.

“There’ll be occasions Sunday when I bring the band down to just piano, bass, and trumpet, which Chet did a lot,” notes Brennan. “For the most part, though, there’ll be five of us.”

The origin of 7 Blue goes back some 10 years, after Australia native Brennan moved to the Tulsa area to start up a program in physical medicine at the Orthopedic Hospital of Oklahoma. A musician since his early teens, he’d performed for some two decades in Houston in a Dixieland jazz band called the Big Boys. One of its members was the big-name veteran Paul Buskirk, who, according to Brennan, “taught me jazz, starting with the basic New Orleans-style jazz, and then standards – that’s where I learned all that stuff.”paul buskirk with bigsby mandolin_1

In Tulsa, he began hanging out at the Monday evening jam sessions at Harwelden, presided over by pianist Ted Moses, Out of that experience, eventually, came 7 Blue, in which Brennan was joined Tim DeMoss on piano and Mike Schmidt on bass.

“Mike and Tim and I played four about four years, in places like the Bourbon Street Café and Camerelli’s, where we played every Wednesday night for two years,” he recalls. “That’s when the band got really good. We added Dave Brashears on vibraphone, and in about 2006 we cut a CD called Riverside. It has originals by the band and several standards.

“We disbanded about a year later, I picked up Damon Snow and Matt Hayes, and we became a guitar trio.”

For a year and a half, that band played regularly at Jazzwich, the Wednesdaynoontime event at the Jazz Depot. It’s now at Hey Mambo every Wednesday andFriday night.

“When I first came to Tulsa, I was only going to stay for three years, because I had a house in the [Texas] hill country, and I was trying to get into the Austin music scene,” says Brennan. “But after three years, I decided to stay here, because this place had already shown me the history behind not just jazz, but all music. Tulsa was a little treasure that no one knew about. And I was inspired by my contact with local musicians to go back and work on my music. I’ve watched things grow over the past four or five years now, to really become a hotbed for jazz.”

7 Blue is set to begin at 5:00p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, 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, 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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.


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Amina Figarova at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

Amina Figarova Quintet Takes Jazz Depot Stage Thursday, August 15


Internationally known jazz musician and composer Amina Figarova, a native of the former Iron Curtain country of Azerbaijan, has been playing the piano since 1968.

Not bad, when you consider she was born in 1966.

“I started walking early,” she recalls, “and I walked over to our piano and started using my fingers on it. My mother wasn’t a musician, but she could play a few songs, and she showed me where to put my fingers on the keys. It was very basic.

“I’m coming from a very musical family, although they weren’t musicians, so it was somewhere in my blood and genes. The next thing I did, when I was three, was pick up melodies I heard on the radio. At the time, what you could hear on the radio were popular songs in Azerbaijan. So the piano became my favorite toy. My mother realized there was something special going on, so she bought a grand piano to take the place of the old upright piano we had.”

Still, even though she started at a remarkably early age, Figarova was never forced into musical pursuits by her family.

“No, nobody pushed me,” she says. “My mother didn’t want me to be a child prodigy, so since I wasn’t pushed, it was all very natural.”

An obviously precocious talent like hers could hardly be ignored, however. So, by the time she was six, Figarova was taking classes at “a special music conservatory for kids,” where everything she learned revolved around classical music.

“Playing in other genres and styles was not encouraged there,” she notes. “But it was encouraged by my parents, especially my mother. I listened a lot to jazz music as a kid – my mother would play Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson – and I loved it. But I denied it because, being influenced by my teachers, it was classical, classical, classical. So jazz remained a mystery to me. I did not think I was able to do that.”

Years later, when she was studying at the Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, where she would also go on holidays, she heard a performer who changed her mind.

“I met this great jazz player in the Netherlands, who had an ability to do everything,” she remembers. “Rob van Kreeveld. He’d just go all over the place. I listened to him, and I heard him do some classical quotes, and I thought, `If he can do that, can go from classical to jazz, why can’t I?’ So I asked him if I could study with him.vankreeveld_02

“I called from the Netherlands to my mother, and she said, `I told you that you could do it all your life. Just go do it,'” Figarova added with a laugh.

She eventually came to America to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she continued honing her skills as both a solo pianist and jazz composer. The idea to put together her own group solidified after she attended the Thelonious Monk Jazz Colony Summer Camp in Aspen, Colorado, back in 1998.

“As a classical player, I had always loved the sound of big bands, because I had played with a lot of symphonic orchestras,” she explains. “But I also knew that there wasn’t much opportunity to play solos. Then I was in Colorado playing with a big band, looking out over a beautiful mountain view, and that was the moment my sextet was born. I knew I had to create a band that was powerful like a big band, but allowed for more individual freedom.”

Figarova works in both a sextet and a quintet, and it’s the latter that she’ll be bringing to the Jazz Depot. A mixture of players from both Holland and New York, where Figarova now lives, the group includes Alex Pope Norris on trumpet, Jeroen Vierdag on bass, Jason Brown on drums, and Bart Platteu, Figarova’s husband, on flute.

The Amina Figarova Quintet is set to begin at 7:00p.m. Thursday, August 15, 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, 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.

Ms. Figarova is also scheduled to conduct a jazz-piano master class on Wednesday, August 14, 1:00 pm, for high school and college musicians. 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.


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