Bass Summit hosted by Nathan Eicher at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame




It’s been a little over a month since Nathan Eicher accompanied Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame drummer Washington Rucker in a Jazz Depot concert. But it’s clear that the experience, and Rucker himself, continue to impress the young bassist.

“The guy was amazing – just so much experience,” says Eicher. “I could see, given his experience, where it would have been frustrating to play with someone like me, because I don’thave the experience. I haven’t seen all the situations, musically, that he’s seen. So things I might be doing that are maybe new, that I’m doing for the first time, are things he’s probably heard guys do before. Anything I could throw at him, he’s heard.

“But he was just so nice about it, you know? He was like, `Be free. Explore, and express yourself.’ He was reassuring, and he seemed to enjoy watching the process unfold with a younger guy. That was inspiring. He was just so far beyond me, and I got the opportunity to play with him and learn from him and I thought, `Man, I want to try to share that experience in the other direction.’”

To that end, the band Eicher’s bringing to the Depot Sunday will not only feature Depot regular Tim Shadley on piano, but a couple of high school musicians: bassist Byron Crenshaw and drummer Jonathan Haywood.    Crenshaw has been playing at the Tuesday evening Depot Jams, while Haywood is the drummer for the Tulsa Jam’bassadors, the award-winning all-city jazz group that’s a project of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. A combo made up of Jam’bassadors will also be on the bill Sunday.tulsa jambassadors web

In addition to his experience with Rucker, growing up in a musical family – his mother is the well-known vocalist Janet Rutland, his father the noted multi-instrumentalist Shelby Eicher – also contributed to his yen to work with youthful players.

“I want to reach out to kids who are young, because when I was young I had that opportunity,” he explains. “I was very fortunate, with my parents being musicians, to be able when I was in high school to go out and play gigs and sit in. And I’m always inspired when I hear these younger kids playing.”

Sunday, two of those younger kids, along with Shadley and Eicher, will be performing in a quartet that’ll look s a bit unusual. Added to the standard rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums will be a second bass, played by Eicher as a lead instrument, using a bow.

“I drew my inspiration from a bassist named Arni Egilsson,” Eicher says. “He has an album I heard several years ago called Basses Loaded, and it was the same kind of combo. After I heard it, I said, `Man, I want to do that. I want to develop my ability to play this instrument as a lead instrument, so much that I could step in front of a band and do it.’”nathan eicher

He adds that the groups he’s in, including the Tulsa-based string-jazz quartet Mischievous Swing and the trio that works regularly at Oklahoma City’s Hefner Grill, give him plenty of chances to experiment with bass solos.

“The past couple of years, particularly at Hefner Grill, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with a bow and develop that,” he notes. “So, now that I’m finally feeling comfortable with it, I thought, `Hey, I want to try leading a band with this.’ The bass might step into that [lead] role occasionally in the other bands I’m in, but in this [concert], it’s going to be every song, basically. It’ll be sort of like a bass violin.”

He laughs. “I guess I’m trying to be the Stephane Grappelli of bass.”

The Bass Summit with the Nathan Eicher Quartet and the Tulsa Jam’bassadors combo is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 30, 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, 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.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.

The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 Spring 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 Oklahomansthrough preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.

jazz hall at night

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Cow Bop: The Best in Cowboy Jazz at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

Cow Bop’s Route 66 Tour Hits Jazz Depot Tuesday 

             Those who catch Cow Bop’s show Tuesday, July 23, at the Jazz Depot may be in on the ground floor of something revolutionary.

The concert, according to Cow Bop guitarist and founder Bruce Forman, is part of what he terms “a linear music festival.”

“The traditional musical festival is like Woodstock, Coachella, the Monterey Jazz Festival, where people go to a specific place to listen to music, and bands show up,” he explains. “That idea has expanded to where whole towns, like Austin with South by Southwest and Port Townsend [Washington] become festivals. What I’m trying to do is create a linear festival down Route 66 for ten or eleven days, with all these bands playing, with their own itineraries and their own schedules, and then through social media, via Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, just put the story out on the Web.

“I’m just trying to create something new and celebrate the spirit of Route 66,” he adds. “I’m a teacher in residence at USC, so what I’ve done is make it into a collaborative learning experience, where all these bands – student bands, alumni bands, and faculty bands – are along on this trip. We have over a dozen bands out on the road, playing along Route 66, which is a linear community. We’re celebrating the road and teaching the culture of the road and how deeply imbedded it is in the music we play. We’re also adding youthful energy and helping out the economy of the road. It’s a very holistic attempt at something, and we’re sharing our information on a Website that has Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. It’s called”

For the Tulsa show, Forman hopes to have a guest from his linear-festival tour sitting in with the Cow Bop lineup, which also includes vocalist Pinto Pammy, horn player David Wise, bassist Alex Frank, and drummer Jake Reed.

“I’m hoping an exceptional student of mine from USC, a fiddle player, will be in town at the same time and play a tune with us,’ he says.

Meanwhile, he’d also like to see Tulsa fiddler Shelby Eicher, who’s recorded and performed with Cow Bop, sit in as well. Eicher and his cohorts – including two of his sons — in the acoustic-jazz outfit Mischievous Swing are set to open the show.MischievousSwingWeb1

“That band is really fantastic,” notes Forman. “Anything Shelby does is amazing.”

The West Coast-based Cow Bop was last in town in the fall, where they shared the Cain’s Ballroom stage with the Tulsa Playboys (a swing band that includes Eicher) in

an award-winning live broadcast of Public Radio Tulsa’s Swing on This, honoring the anniversary of the birth of western-swing figure Johnnie Lee Wills. On that night, Forman played many of the bop-oriented licks that have given him a high standing in jazz circles.

“Forman’s music demonstrates that jazz and western swing are closely aligned,” explains Jason McIntosh, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO. “The fact that Charlie Parker and Milton Brown inhabit the same musical universe is not surprising to Cow Bop fans.”

“Western swing to me has always been jazz music,” Forman says. “When you go back to its inception, with Bob Wills and Milton Brown [in the late 1920s-early 1930s], those guys were playing swing beat, which is exactly what the jazz musicians of the day were playing. They were doing many of the same tunes. It was all based on playing the melody and letting everybody show off their dazzling musicianship while keeping a really great groove going to keep the dancers happy.”

The biggest difference at the time was that the western swing musicians did it predominantly with stringed instruments, while the jazz players utilized more brass and reeds. Also, adds Forman, “They had different backgrounds, which created a slightly different sound.

“I’ve always believed that the whole idea of jazz is to play your way and bring all your influences and aesthetics to the music and make something happen,” he says. “On that point, I don’t see any difference between western swing and jazz, and to me it’s always been just strange that western swing was not considered a part of jazz history and tradition.

“I’m doing my part,” he concludes with a chuckle, “to make sure that’s corrected.”

Mischievous Swing is set to open the show for Cow Bop at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, 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 $15.00, reserved table seating $20.00. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10.00, and high school and junior high students for $5.00.

Cow Bop: The Best in Cowboy Jazz 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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