If you’re a jazz lover who enjoys live music, chances are pretty good that you’ve seen Olivia Duhon performing in an area venue. Winner of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Legacy Tribute Award in 2009, the striking vocalist has been a high-profile artist on the local scene for a few years now.
But even if you’ve seen her, you may never have seen her do the kind of show she’ll present at the Jazz Depot on Sunday. There, she’ll not only be accompanied by her trio – Frank Brown on guitar, Ron Adams on bass, and Jim Karstein on drums – but also by a couple of other noted musicians: Mike Leland on piano and Mike Moore on trumpet. For Duhon, that all adds up to a rare concert with what for her is a big band.
“Usually, the places we play are kind of small, and their size unfortunately doesn’t allow for a larger group,” she explains. “But since we’re going to be at the Jazz Hall, this is our opportunity to get some really awesome players in there to join us.”
Her regular players, of course, are no slouches. Frequent bandmates Brown and Adams have been mainstays of the Tulsa jazz scene for decades, and drummer Karstein is a bona fide Tulsa Sound heavyweight, one of the fabled area musicians who headed West in the ‘60s and ended up making their mark on the international rock scene. Among his credits are stints with hitmakers Gary Lewis and the Playboys and fellow Tulsa expatriate J.J. Cale, along with L.A. studio work that includes drumming on Cheech & Chong’s 1973 hit “Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces,” where Karstein was joined by the likes of George Harrison, Carole King, Billy Preston, Darlene Love, and Klaus Voorman.
“Playing with him has just been a joy, an absolute pleasure,” says Duhon. “I get to hear stories of when he played back in the day, and that’s always a wonderful thing. I love history in general, the history behind everything, and that’s probably a reason why I love jazz so much.”
In fact, she adds, her penchant for studying the history of jazz will be reflected in Sunday’s concert.
“It’s going to be kind of an eclectic mix,” Duhon says. “We’re really going to focus the first half on the 1920s. I think that was the beginning point for the jazz that we know. So much was happening, both politically and artistically, that helped catapult jazz into the mainstream, and I’m really intrigued by that. So I wanted to focus on the 1920s for my first set.
“As far as the second set goes, there’ll be some songs, a little bit current, that are definitely different,” she adds. “These are songs that you wouldn’t think you could make jazzy – for lack of a better term.” She laughs. “We really take a different approach to them, and I think it’s something that people will enjoy.”
She would rather not, however, give specifics, preferring to keep the element of surprise for the concert – although she does reveal that one of the composers she’s featuring in the second set will be a contemporary of Joni Mitchell, who fans know is one of Duhon’s favorites.
“It’s someone from the same era, let’s say that,’ she says. “And it’s a song you would never imagine a jazz singer, so to speak, would sing.”
Cover of Antônio Carlos Jobim
In addition to her Joni Mitchell numbers, Duhon is also known for presenting Brazilian music, particularly the work of Antonio Carlos Jobim. For quite a while, however, she resisted doing his most famous composition, the much-recorded and performed “Girl From Ipanema.” A recent addition to her repertoire, “Girl from Ipanema” may even be included on Sunday’s playlist.
“For the longest time, I wouldn’t do it, because I wanted to do the more obscure bossa novas,” she explained. “But you know, people love that song. And even though it’s been done so many times, when you see the reaction from the audience, and you feel their energy and how much they love it, it just brings a renewed sense of beauty to the song.”
Olivia Duhon is set to begin at 5:00p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.