<i>Jazz Hall of Fame Hopping with Great Musical Events </i>

JAZZ DEVOTEES: Dr. Simon Levit and myself at his reception at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, prior to the Eldar concert.

Courtesy Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

The Spring season has been very busy at the Jazz Depot in downtown Tulsa. Special events have been numerous and the Spring Jazz Concert Series has seen the likes of Grammy-award nominated jazz pianist phenom, Eldar Djangirov and his NYC trio in performance to a standing room only audience. Local pianist, vocalist, arranger and musical director Rick Fortner brought his musical extravaganza to the Jazz Depot and wowed the packed house with his special musical guests, including the fantastic Tavis Minner.

We have also enjoyed the University of Tulsa’s big jazz band, as well as the Jazz Hall’s recent blues inductee, Ray D. Rowe and his blues band. Also, we had the opportunity to visit with Jazz Hall inductee Washington Rucker, who flew in from Los Angeles for his book signing party at the Jazz Depot to sign copies of his new book, Jazz Road. Rucker’s book is a memoir highlighting his early days growing up in Tulsa to his travels around the world as one of our premiere jazz drummers. Mr. Rucker has worked with many of the great jazz artists over the years, including Lionel Hampton, Nancy Wilson, Count Basie and many others.

Two very special events took place recently at the Jazz Depot and from the calls and emails, both were well received by all in attendance. The Links, Inc. Tulsa Chapter presented their annual fundraiser at the Hall on Thursday, April 30 with special guest star, Broadway’s Claire Bathe. Her concert was simply stupendous and she looked ravishing in a red sparkling gown. She was accompanied by Jazz Hall Inductee and world-class pianist, Mr. Donald Ryan.

Dallas Cowboys’ running back and former Booker T. Washington high school football star Felix Jones II presented his MVP Blue-Tie event at the Jazz Depot recently with many of his pro-football buddies in attendance. Live music was provided by Charlie Redd and the Full Flava Kings and the event was coordinated by Felix Jones II and Big Sports and Entertainment. Two of the highlights included the silent auction, with proceeds donated to the North Tulsa Salvation Army Mabee Center, Jo Bright executive director. The live action proceeds were donated to the City of Tulsa and Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Mentoring to the Max Program. From the looks of it all, the Mayor and her husband, Bill Lobeck, had the time of their lives at the event.

Another highlight of this Spring season was a new art acquisition donated to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame courtesy of Tulsa doctor and community leader Dr. Simon Levit and his lovely wife, Rita. On their recent travels to South Africa, they purchased a work of art reflecting the likeness of music icon Quincy Jones and South African jazz bassist Jimmy Bond at the piano. The new work of art was painted by South African born artist, Sam Nhlengethwa. The piece is on display in the Gallery and everyone is invited to the Jazz Depot, located at First Street and Cincinnati Avenue (Upper Level) to view this wonderful addition to the art and photo exhibit at the Jazz Hall of Fame. A special thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Simon Levit for their contribution and their support of the Jazz Depot.

The Spring Jazz Concert Series concludes on Sunday, May 24 with my group Chuck Cissel and Friends, starting promptly at 5 p.m. I am proud to be a former Broadway performer (Hello Dolly, Purlie, Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope, A Chorus Line, etc.). I also was an Arista Records recording artist debuting with my self-penned international dance hit, Cisselin’Hot! My friends for the concert include the lovely and talented vocalist Dionne White, Juanita Ellington (Duke Ellington’s cousin), Jazz Hall inductee, vocalist Pam Crosby and the singing bartender himself, Mr. Devre Jackson. Also on board are the Sonny Gray Trio, pianist Joe Wilkinson and Tom Sterling on saxophone.

Concerts will continue throughout the summer at the Jazz Depot with the Summer Concert Series, which will kick off on Sun. June 14. One of the highlights will be The Wild Women of Oklahoma Jazz, featuring jazz stars Olivia Duhon, Juanita Ellington, Beverly Johnson, Annie Ellicott, Starr Fisher, Amy Cottingham and Janet Rutland. In addition, J3 Jazz and Blues Band will perform, along with the Sonny Gray Quintet and the Timothy Paul Jazz Trio. Sundays during the months of June, July and August will be dedicated to lots of great American music. Join us.

Get ready for the annual JazzFEST, which will lock down First Street and Cincinnati Avenue on Saturday evening, June 27 at the Jazz Depot. The music festival will kick off with performances at 6 p.m. by J3 Jazz and Blues Band, followed by WallStreet and Eldredge Jackson and Listening Pleasure, who will headline the special musical event. More details in the next issue of this GTR Newspaper.

Updated 05-18-2009

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