Joe Wilkinson’s Memorial Day Salute to Vets At The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.

memorial day 4


Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Presents Memorial Day Salute to Vets:

Produced by Joe Wilkinson

Anyone who can produce a show like Monday’s Salute To Veterans, featuring a large roster of vocalists and instrumentalists, deserves kudos for getting it all together and out onto the Jazz Depot stage. If that person is actually performing as well as producing, the feat is still more impressive.

But if the producer-performer recently celebrated his 90th birthday, it’s not just impressive – it’s pretty much unparalleled.

This year, pianist-vocalist-producer – and nonagenarian – Joe Wilkinson is once again at the helm for what has become a Jazz Depot tradition: the Salute to Veterans Memorial Day concert emphasizing patriotic and World War II-era music that’s free to any member or former member of the United States Armed Services. And, as has been the case in the past, he’ll also play some piano and sing a number or two – although, he says, he’s going to keep the latter to a minimum this time around.

“Our annual Memorial Day concert is a salute to our veterans, and a way to thank them for their service,” said Jason McIntosh, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO. “And everyone loves working with Joe–ninety years old and still going strong. It’s inspiring that this WWII vet is still producing and directing shows. He represents the Greatest Generation well.”cp_003

“Well, my voice is growing old, just like my body, and when I listen to it, I’m beginning not to be happy with what I hear,” explains Wilkinson. “So although I’m probably going to sing at least one tune, just for fun, I’ve got Darell Christopher doing what I did last year, which is `Kalamazoo’ and `Chattanooga Choo Choo.'”

Except for Jazz Depot favorite Christopher and singer Amanda Mansheim, the vocalists on the program were all aboard for last year’s Salute to Veterans. They include Angie Cockrell, Larry Cochran, Pam Van Dyke Crosby, Emily Chappell, and Sue Warwick.

“Amanda and I did some things together three or four years ago, and then she was expecting another child and it was time to get off the stage for a while,” notes Wilkinson. “After that, she had some throat problems. But she’s back and running. In fact, she’ll be singing on `Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.’ We’re going to do that with a trio of girls, kind of like the Andrews Sisters. Angie will handle the melody, Sue will do the alto work, and Amanda’s doing the soprano part– and she’s an opera singer, so she’ll get there.

“I’ve got Emily, who sang `I’ll Never Smile Again’ last year, doing that one again, and I’ve also gotten her to do `Indian Summer.’ Those are two of my all-time favorites.”

Also returning from last year – in addition to emcee John Wooley, of Public Radio Tulsa’s Swing on This program – are trumpeter Mike Bennett and bassist Jordan Hehl, joining new pianists Tim Shadley and Larry Mitchell, along with Wilkinson himself.

“Tim will be our main piano man,” says Wilkinson. “His primary instrument is trombone, but he’s taken a real hold on piano, and I mean he really works that sucker. Larry Mitchell worked with us at Guthrie Green last year, and he’s a good pianist. He fits the bill real well. I’m probably going to do a minimum amount of playing, but I do have my favorites.

“Mike Bennett is great to have, because you’ve got somebody carrying the load, you know,” he adds. “And he certainly can. He’s the best.”talk of tulsa

Sue Warwick, says Wilkinson, is the person responsible for the group that’s scheduled to begin this year’s event.

“We were kind of looking for a new approach for kicking the thing off, and Sue brought this to us. It’s a group called the Talk of Tulsa, a chorus, and they’ve been very successful in competitions. There’ll be at least 20 people up there singing the National Anthem in a cappella harmony, and it could be just outstanding.”


Oklahoma Representatives Eric Proctor and Ken Walker, both of Tulsa, along with representatives of the Honor Flight program are expected to be on hand. The organization sends World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. for a tour – recently, in fact, Wilkinson himself took the trip.honor flight

“It was really great. Whenever we’d come into a crowd, getting off at the airport and everything, there would be all these people standing there and saying, `Thank you so much for what you did.’ I’m thinking, `Man, when I was a kid in the South Pacific, I didn’t realize anybody was going to thank me for my service.’ That’s the last thing I expected,” he concludes with a laugh.

The Salute to Veterans is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. on Memorial Day – Monday, May 26 – 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.

All veterans of the Armed Services will be admitted for free.

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 Oklahomans through the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.

Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame



jazz hall at night

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Luisza Cornelius In Concert At The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame


Luisza Cornelius Debuts Own Show Sunday at the Jazz Depot

Vocalist Luisza Cornelius may be a newcomer to the Jazz Depot stage – and to the rest of the Tulsa jazz scene as well – but anyone who hears her sing will realize immediately that she’s hardly a rookie. In fact, as recently as last year, she was a featured performer in a jazz show at the House of Blues on L.A.’s Sunset Strip.

Later in 2012, however, she returned to the town of her birth, after following her jazz dreams to the West Coast, Paris, and back to California. Now, she’s exploring the Tulsa scene for opportunities to establish herself as an artist in her hometown.

For that, she couldn’t have found a better person that the veteran pianist and vocalist, Joe Wilkinson, whom she met, more or less by accident, not long after coming home for the holidays.

“I’d just gotten here, and I thought, `You know, I’d really love to hear some jazz during this Christmas time. I just don’t know where to go to hear it,'” she remembers. “So I looked in the paper, and I saw that there was going to be jazz at this church. I was kind of shocked that there was going to be jazz at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but my brother and I went, and that’s how I met Joe. I told him I sang, and he told me about the jam sessions [at the Jazz Depot].”Luisza_Corneilius-1

The event she attended was Jazz to the World, a holiday concert organized by Wilkinson at the First Christian Church in downtown Tulsa. A performer since his World War II days, Wilkinson has had untold numbers of people come up to him and introduce themselves as singers, so he can be forgiven for being skeptical.

But then he heard her sing.

“He said, `It seems like you’ve done this before,'” Cornelius recalls with a laugh. “And I said, `Yes, I have.'”

She did not do it while she was growing up in Tulsa, however, although she did participate in school music programs.

“That was it, because my dad wouldn’t allow me to do anything else,” she explains with another laugh. “It was just school and church.”

Then, in the 1980s, she took off for California, where she found work for the first time in clubs and similar venues.

“I’ve sung with people who are famous now, like Billy Childs, the jazz artist,” she says. “He used to back me up at a club called the Comeback Café, in California. I’ve sung at all the various clubs: the Roosevelt Hotel, the Roxy, the Troubadour. From there I went to France, because I’d heard how beautiful it was, and I sang at famous hotels there as well. That was in the ’90s.”

billy childs

After another stint on the West Coast, Cornelius came back to Tulsa. And now, with the help of Wilkinson and her own substantial talent, she’s worked her way up from the jam sessions to featured spots in Jazz Depot shows, notably the most recent Memorial Day concert, which Wilkinson produced. Last month, she shared a bill with vocalist Darell Christopher. Sunday, she’s got one for herself.

“Luisza is quickly becoming a crowd favorite here at the Jazz Depot,” says Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh. “And she’s a vocalist musicians love to play music with.”

“I’ll do jazz, but I’m going to mix a little R&B in there as well,” she says of her show. “People should expect the unexpected. Sometimes I’m not even sure what’s happening – it’s in the moment, and it is what it is. That’s what beautiful music is about: improvisation. You just improvise, and beautiful things usually come out.”

She’ll be working with a band Sunday, she adds, but there’ll also be a guest appearance by the man who helped her get her foot in the door in Tulsa.

“I’m going to have Joe come up and do a guest number with me, and tell the people how I came to perform there, and how I got there because of him,” she says. “He’s just been so helpful, pointing me in the direction of different things. He’s a kind-hearted person, and he and his wife have been very good to me. I appreciate that.”

Luisza Cornelius is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, 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.               

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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Joe Wilkerson’s Memorial Day Tribute To Veterans at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame


Joe Wilkinson produces a Memorial Day Salute to Veterans: Like many jazz and swing performers, eighty-nine-year-old singer-pianist Joe Wilkinson knows a lot of the classic songs from World War II. The only difference is, he was playing them when they were new. As a member of the 304 th Signal Operation Battalion stationed in the Philippine Islands, Wilkinson was responsible for helping keep the Allied lines of communication open during the war. Evenings, he had another responsibility: laying down a beat for the off-duty officers stationed on the island of Leyte. “Over there in the South Pacific, the first thing that happened was that you hit the beach and got it secure,” he recalls. “The second thing you did was expand the perimeter to hopefully take in an airstrip, and secure that. The third thing you did was build an officers’ club. And the fourth thing you did was look for a band.”

To this day, Wilkinson isn’t sure why he was called to audition at the makeshift club on the island; he figures someone had heard him play piano at a boot-camp show back in the States and made a note in his record. What he is sure about is what greeted him when he showed up to try out for the gig. “Here was this big pyramidal tent with a dance floor, a piano, and a bar – and that was the officers’ club,” he recalled with a chuckle. “When I walked in, there was this black guy just playing the keys off the piano. I mean he was good. I later found out he had played with Coleman Hawkins stateside, so he was really credible. “So I sat down to listen to him, just in awe, and he saw me and said, `Are you here to audition for the band?’ I said, `Not as long as you’re in the room.’ “He laughed and said, Well, we’re looking for a bassist. You ever play bass?’ I said no, and he said, `Do you understand chord structure?’ I said, yeah, I did. He said, `Go to headquarters and bring a bass in, and I’ll help you along and see if we can’t get you playing bass.’ So I did, and he did, and I wound up playing bass for the Eighth Army Men’s Chorus.” And when the great American composer Irving Berlin came to the Philippines on tour, Wilkinson ended up as his bassist. “I’ll tell you what: He played piano, and every piano man thinks he can sing. I’m no exception,” Wilkinson says with another chuckle. “But he should never have tried it publicly.”

Unlike Irving Berlin, piano man Wilkinson is an accomplished vocalist, even though he tends to downplay both his singing and his keyboard work, saying, “I’ve been privileged to play with several of the good vocalists around here, and I do take pride in being able to handle that job. But there are really gifted piano men around, guys like Steve Schrag and Scott McQuade. Those guys are giants.” Wilkinson is producing Monday’s concert, which will feature a number of guest artists in addition to Wilkinson himself. He expects the evening to be “about two-thirds” standards from the World War II era.

John Wooley, host of Public Radio Tulsa’s “Swing on This” and a Vietnam veteran, is set to emcee the show. Honor Flight representatives will be on hand at the event to answer questions about their program, which sends World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. for a tour. They get a hearty endorsement from Wilkinson, who recently took the Honor Flight himself. “I did it just this year, and I really was touched by it,” he says. “The people were just overwhelming in their congratulations and their `thanks for what you did’ and all of that. I started to feel guilty because I’m still alive to see it. It was all very heartwarming.” – Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 111 E. First St., upper level. Monday night from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from, 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. All Armed Forces veterans will be able to see the concert for free. Free Covered Parking!

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Dave Brubeck Tribute at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

Dave Brubeck Memorial Tribute Concert 

begins Winter Series at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall

For the past month, ever since his Dec. 5 death (a day before his 92nd birthday), musicians and fans the world over have been remembering the jazz giant Dave Brubeck with concerts, special radio and television programming, and other tributes. The reaction to his passing reflects, among other things, the fact that there probably wasn’t another artist who did more to thrust jazz into the mainstream consciousness than Brubeck. And there probably wasn’t another jazz number more influential than the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s breakthrough instrumental “Take Five,” whose offbeat time signature and silken, ethereal saxophone playing by Paul Desmond made it an improbable radio hit in 1961.

“That’s right,” says Steven Schrag. “I can’t think of another single piece in 5/4 time that made Top 40 radio.”

Schrag, whose own piano playing has enlivened many a Jazz Depot show, serves as producer of the Brubeck tribute show for the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. He’s happy to be honoring a man he counts as one of his major influences.

“Brubeck was a fantastic pianist and an inspiration to a lot of musicians who came after him,” says Schrag. “His music was at once both intelligent and accessible, and he popularized a lot of music with unique time signatures, like `Take Five.'”

A pianist, composer, and bandleader, Brubeck began piano lessons at the age of 4. By the time he was 14, he was playing weekend gigs with dance bands around his family’s California ranch. He continued performing in clubs, working his way through college as a musician before serving in the European Theatre during World War II.

Although he worked with both an octet and trio beginning in the late 1940s, after his discharge, his greatest fame came in the ’50s and ’60s with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, whose recordings – especially “Take Five” — and concerts on college campuses and elsewhere led to an increased American interest in jazz. The group made its first international tour in 1958. A year later, the album Time Out, featuring “Take Five,” became the first jazz album to sell a million copies.

“He was not only a great jazz player; he was a great person as well,” Schrag says, “For one thing, there was his time as a jazz ambassador, working with the U.S. State Department, performing all over the world.”

“When I was doing research on Brubeck for school projects, it was also very interesting to learn his approach to the strong currents of racial tension during that time period of the ’50s and ’60s,” Schrag adds. “I think he was very aware of and sensitive to all of that. He canceled several television shows when he found out they planned to keep his black player off camera. He had an integrated group then, and the cameras were going to be only on his white musicians. He wouldn’t allow that, so he canceled the shows. That was a noble thing to do. It took a lot of courage on his part.”

In addition to all his internationally known achievements, Brubeck had a longstanding connection with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Along with receiving the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall in 2002, he was the honorary chairman of the Jazz Hall’s membership campaign for 2012, closing his letter to potential members by writing, “I ask you to continue to support America’s classical music – jazz-and continue to support the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, one of four arts institutions in this country dedicated to one of America’s true art forms – jazz.”

“We’re proud that Dave Brubeck’s commitment to spreading the gospel of jazz included supporting our efforts in Oklahoma and with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame,” says Jazz Hall CEO Jason McIntosh. “He’s one of the key 20th Century figures to bring jazz to the people; he was a real ambassador for jazz and music all over the world, and he and his wife blessed so many people, not only with great performances, but with their friendship.”

“We’re going to try to honor his memory in the best way we can with this show,” adds Schrag. “We’ll have some of the best jazz pianists in Oklahoma, and some of the songs will be done by a combo, in much the same style as the famous quartet Dave Brubeck had.”

The Dave Brubeck Memorial Tribute Concert begins Sunday at 5 p.m. 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 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 Winter 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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Bucky Pizzarelli honored by the Oklahoma Jazz Hall Of Fame.

Bucky Pizzarelli  recieved the  Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night Dec 15, 2012, during the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Induction Gala.


This was the press release about the event as well as pictures from the evening:

Legendary Jazz Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli Set to perform December 15 at Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Induction.

When Bucky Pizzarelli takes the Jazz Depot stage Saturday night during the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Induction Gala, it’ll mark the first time in a long time that Oklahomans have had a chance to see the award-winning jazz guitarist.

“When I was in the service, out there at Camp Gruber [southeast of Muskogee], I passed through a couple of times,” he says with a chuckle. “But no, I haven’t played in Tulsa very much.  When I was with Vaughn Monroe, we did. We played Tulsa and all over.”

That would have been the mid-1940s into the ‘50s, beginning in 1944, when Pizzarelli was only 17. Monroe, a big-band and pre-rock-era vocalist whose list of major pop hits includes “Racing with the Moon,” “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” and “There, I’ve Said It Again,” found himself in the position of a number of other bandleaders of the day: World War II had taken many of his players, and he needed replacements.

“Vaughn had tried to get in the service, too, but he’d gotten a 4F,” recalls Pizzarelli. “He was trying to keep the band together, to keep the one-nighters going, and there were a lot of chairs empty.

“I was going to high school and was just about to graduate. His trumpet player knew that I sat in with Joe Mooney a lot, one of the great accordion players who was really a father figure for all the jazz guys in Paterson, New Jersey.  So I went in and played with the band in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I was 17 [below draft age], so Vaughn said, `C’m’on, stay with the band.’

“We did shows in movie theaters – the movie, a Mickey Mouse [cartoon], then the band, then the movie and Mickey Mouse again, four times a day,” he adds. “We did Pittsburgh, Boston, all over. “

The following January, however, Pizzarelli turned 18, and Uncle Sam came calling. Discharged in 1946, after the end of the war, Pizzarelli found his old job waiting.

“Vaughn happened to call my mother and ask her, `When’s Bucky getting out?’ She said, `He’s getting out next week.’

“`Well,” he said, `tell him to join the band in Providence.’

Pizzarelli laughs. “I got home, jumped on a train, went up to Providence and joined the band, and I stayed five years.”

In addition to touring and recording with the group, Pizzarelli worked on Monroe’s nationally broadcast radio show. That marked the beginning of a long association with the NBC network, wherePizzarelli eventually landed with the Tonight Show orchestra.

“I was on staff at NBC in the ‘50s with Kate Smith [The Kate Smith Evening Hour, 1951-52] for a year. Then when the show closed, that was the end of my job, you know. They didn’t need me any more.

The Tonight Show was much later. I did a lot of studio work before that. I did a lot of rock ‘n’ roll records. I did all those Dion and the Belmonts records, the first ones – `The Wanderer,’ `Teenager in Love.’ I can’t remember them all, but the first four were million-sellers.”

Finding himself less than challenged by his rock ‘n’ roll work, Pizzarelli jumped at the chance to play with the Tonight Show band, and its leader, Skitch Henderson. That job began in the early‘60s, adding to a resume that included work with such diverse acts as Zoot Sims, Stephane Grappelli, and the Three Suns, the latter an easy-listening “hotel- jazz” outfit popular in the ‘50s and early‘60s.

“They knew what they were doing,” he says of the latter group. “We played for 2,000 people at a dance one night, and that’s a pretty big thing to do with a trio.”

Bucky Pizzarelli

Cover of Bucky Pizzarelli

“Mr. Pizzarelli is a real national treasure, one of the truly great players starting from the swing period when jazz was the heart of popular music. Mr. Pizzarelli is a direct heir to Charlie Christian, Eldon Shamblin, Barney Kessel and epitomizes the swing tradition more so than any musician alive today,” said Jason McIntosh, CEO of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.  Interestingly, Mr. Pizzarelli’s other collaborators over the years include Muskogee native Jay McShann, the pioneering jazz-blues pianist. The night of the Induction Gala, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is  awarding Mr. Pizzarelli with the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award.

“We worked together many times,” Pizzarelli says of McShann. “We’d play jazz parties, mostly on the weekends. Fans get together and have these parties – it started in Denver, now they’re all over. We played together in Odessa, Texas and Denver, a lot of places. He was easy to play with and a fantastic man – and he was the guy who should’ve been the leader of the CountBasie band when Basie left!”


The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Induction Gala is set for Saturday, Nov. 15, at downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Dress is black-tie optional. A reception starts at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m., p.m., followed by the awards show. Tickets are $100 from the Jazz Hall’s BettieDowning at 918-281-8609. Corporate tables are available.

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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