By CHUCK CISSEL
CEO, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Just two weeks ago, the Jazz Hall celebrated its 20-year anniversary with Tulsa Jazz Society president and resident jazz vocalist Pam Crosby, Blues vocalist Ray D. Rowe, Spirit of Community Excellence recipient Glenda Love, Latin Jazz and Salsa icon Eddie Palmieri, drummer Bill Maxwell and jazz chanteuse Annie Ellicott.
GTR Newspapers photos
When I think of jazz vocalist Marilyn Maye, I think of her smoldering, honeyed tones, infused with impeccable phrasing, clarity of tone and pitch and clear diction. In addition, Ms. Maye is one heck of an entertainer and quite the storyteller or interpreter of the songwriter’s lyrics.
When I was 20 years old and in my junior year at the University of Oklahoma, I had the chance to work with Ms. Maye at the Starlight Theatre in Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo. This was my first season as an Equity-card carrying member where I was introduced to working with national artists and Broadway stars. In this particular summer stock season, Ms. Maye was the star of Cole Porter’s Broadway musical smash, “Can Can.” Many of the chorus kids, including myself, would stand in the wings each night and swoon as she sang Porter’s classic, “I Love Paris.”
It was breathtaking to watch her and certainly a lesson in stage performance for all of us young singers, dancers and actors. It was such a thrill to work side by side with the likes of Ms. Maye and the other great musical comedy artists that glorious year in 1969.
When Ms. Maye was invited to receive our highest honor in 2003 at the Jazz Hall of Fame, we had a long chat on the phone and I asked her if she remembered me back in the summer of ‘69 and she said, “Why yes darling, you were the only African American male in the cast; how could I forget you!” Oh, the timeless Marilyn Maye.
Such was Marilyn Maye’s rise in the Kansas City big band era, that Maye appears with the likes of Count Basie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Big Joe Turner, immortals of the Kansas City music scene. At one point, columnist Rex Reed announced that Maye was the preferred singer of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. Miss Fitzgerald confirmed it herself, when, during an overflow performance at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, she ordered the spotlights turned to the audience and introduced her favorite singer, Marilyn Maye. They became friends and would later perform together. The reviews poured in: “A national treasure” (Houston Chronicle), “The best singer you may ever hear…” (Jazz Ambassador Magazine), “Marilyn Maye sets the standard for the way any jazz, pop, or big band singer would like to sound…” (Peter Nero, Philadelphia Pops). I agree and that is one reason we look to bring Ms. Maye back to the Jazz Hall in 2009. We also have other top-notch jazz performers on our list as well.
Ms. Maye was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2003 as the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement recipient. It was the year of blues legend, Taj Mahal and Marilyn Maye. We also presented Ms. Maye in concert the night following the Gala at the Jazz Hall of Fame, and she was sensational.
Marilyn Maye just completed a second-year engagement at New York’s Lincoln Center. Maye is the holder of the singer’s record (76 appearances) on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” Marilyn Maye’s career is a litany of honors, awards, and landmark achievements. She has performed in cabarets and theaters, regularly on nearly all major, national live performance television shows: from Monte Carlo for the late Princess Grace to New York’s famed Lincoln Center for the Manhattan’s musical elite.
Just two weeks ago, the Jazz Hall celebrated its 20-year anniversary with the likes of Latin Jazz and Salsa icon Eddie Palmieri, Trombone legend Slide Hampton, Drummer Bill Maxwell, Blues vocalist Ray D. Rowe, jazz chanteuse Annie Ellicott and Tulsa Jazz Society president and resident jazz vocalist Pam Crosby. Glenda Love was the Spirit of Community Excellence recipient. The evening was one for the history books and Chera Kimiko was stunning as our co-host for the annual event. Congrats to the Board and Senator Horner.
Stay tuned at www.okjazz.org for the 2009 Jazz Hall of Fame line-up.