By CHUCK CISSEL
CEO, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
FIRST STOP: The Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St., is a Vision 2025 project. The historic building is the home of The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and many concerts throughout the year. Go to okjazz.org for more.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad and a Happy New Year! Can you believe it? This year has flown by so quickly and now we are looking at a brand new year just around the corner. But before we look to the future, let’s take a careful look at a few historic moments in 2008 for Tulsans, as well as for the entire country.
For Tulsans, 2008 was the year of the Center, and what a beautiful design – the modern architecture is something to behold – sleek, futuristic and bold. Take a drive by at night and you will smile with pride as the trees surrounding the Arena are lit in deep blue, while the glass panels change colors. Oh, and how about that skating rink – now that’s a very cool and creative idea!
Another of the new highlights of the Christmas season at the Center will be the high-kicking Radio City Rockettes of New York City fame, performing Dec. 22-24.
As previously stated in this column, downtown Tulsa is on the move and is quickly becoming the “new” place to enjoy dinner and entertainment, along with the Brady and Blue Dome districts. Kudos to all who are helping to make downtown one more “in” place for Tulsans to “hang out.” Congratulations to those who created and constructed our beautiful Arena. A special thanks to my dear friend, community leader and architect Steve Alter, for his significant role in the formulation of the new Arena.
Another highlight took place in June 2008, when the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame celebrated its one-year anniversary in the new Jazz Depot at First Street and Cincinnati. The community has welcomed the newly renovated art deco masterpiece with open arms. With over 35,000 visitors the first year and over 70 events, the Jazz Depot has become one of the main downtown locations to present visually stunning galas, wedding receptions, parties, proms, birthday celebrations and even business meetings and seminars. With 35-foot ceilings and the original appointments from 1931, the Great Performance Hall is one of the magical rooms in the Jazz Depot available for rentals. You can also rent the Gallery, Music Library and the Suite for smaller gatherings, luncheons and dinner parties. One can also always enjoy the finest in jazz, gospel and blues talent at the Jazz Depot as well, with outstanding concerts presented on Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m.
JazzFEST, held in June each year, is another music celebration presented by the Jazz Hall of Fame and is a highlight for the community every year. The Jazz Depot is also home to the Tulsa Honors Orchestra, the Tulsa Chamber Music Orchestra, the Debutante Strings and the Strolling Strings Ensemble, all under the musical direction of Tulsa Symphony Orchestra cellist Kathy Rad. The Deborah Brown Community School students are also a part of the musical family at the Jazz Depot, taking vocal classes, dance classes, instrumental classes and learning about American music history, including jazz, blues, gospel, ragtime and Western Swing.
Speaking of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, a recent addition to the staff is their new executive director, Ron Predl. After 40 years of teaching, conducting and administration at the University of Tulsa, Ron Predl retired from the fulltime faculty as Emeritus Professor of Music. From all of us at the Jazz Hall of Fame, we welcome you to our family here at the Jazz Depot. Some of you may not know it, but the administrative offices are on the lower level of the Jazz Depot. The Jazz Hall of Fame is located on the upper level, 111 E. First St.
2008 was also the year of presidential politics and on Jan. 20, 2009, the United States will swear in the first African-American President, Barack Obama. A large delegation of Tulsans and Oklahomans are headed to Washington D.C. to be a part of history, and to witness, first-hand, his inauguration as our 44th president.
Mark Your Calendars
January 2009 upcoming musical events at the Jazz Depot:
Jan. 16, 2009. You can look for an exciting collaboration between the and the Jazz Hall of Fame on Friday evening, Jan. 16, when we present Jazz: Born and Raised in America with the Donald Ryan Trio, the Jambalaya Jazz Band and, saxophonist Earl Clark and trumpeter David Moore. Also headlining is the Tulsa Ragtime Association, the String Quartet.
Jan. 18, 2009. Local jazz, blues and pop vocalist, Rebecca Ungerman will kick off the Jazz Hall’s Spring Concert Series for 2009, followed by blues and jazz singer Darrel Christopher on Jan. 25. Concerts are on Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m.
Jan. 24, 2009. Jazz Hall inductee and musician Ernie Fields, Jr. and his sister Carmen Fields will present a special concert honoring their mother, Mrs. Bernice Fields 100th birthday. Mrs. Fields is the widow of Jazz Hall inductee Ernie Fields Sr., one of Oklahoma’s all-time great jazz artists. The concert will feature Fred Wesley and the JB’s (R&B legend James Brown’s band) and Tulsa’s own, Ernie Fields, Jr. will also perform on the bill. The birthday concert will be at the Jazz Depot on Sat. Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20, $15, $10.
Jan. 28, 2009. The University of Tulsa and the Jazz Hall join forces to present saxophonist, arranger and composer Tim Ries in concert on Tuesday evening, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Mr. Ries has just returned from a second world tour with the Rolling Stones and his credits also include work with Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow and many others.
Jan. 31, 2009. The Jazz Hall is pleased to announce the first of a series of live Salsa dance and music events featuring one of Tulsa’s top Latin Jazz ensembles, The Salsa Rhythm Project. The music celebration will take place on Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Jazz Depot beginning at 9 p.m. to Midnight.
In February 2009, The Annual Dream Concert, honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the celebration of Black History Month, with Oklahoma’s own music legend and international opera star, Ms. Leona Mitchell. Go to OK Jazz for more information.
Although 2008 was a fantastic year, I believe that 2009 holds an even greater year in store for us all. Have a blast on New Year’s Eve, but do so safely: straight-ahead Tulsa.