Starlight Big Band Takes Jazz Around the World

Americans are used to imports; from food and electronics to cars, we are a country that imports more than it exports. But one important export is uniquely American—jazz. While jazz originated in the good ole’ , it has spread around the globe and influenced music in many countries. That influence will be celebrated at a free concert performed by Starlight’s Big Band on Tuesday, July 27 at 8pm at the River West Festival Park.

“We’re going to start ‘at home’ with a number by Frank Mantooth, a Tulsa native,” said Rich Fisher, Starlight Big Band’s Guest Conductor. “Then we’ll go ‘around the world’ of jazz to spotlight how influential this American style of music has become worldwide.” A variety of international jazz artists will be featured, including Toshiko Akiyoshi, a Japanese pianist and composer; Kenny Wheeler, a Canadian trumpet player who lives in the United Kingdom; and Bert Joris, a Belgian trumpet player who leads the Brussels Jazz Orchestra.

The performance will also celebrate the Centennial of the birth of Mary Lou Williams, known as “The First Lady of Jazz.” Williams was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger who recorded more than 100 records. She wrote and arranged for such bandleaders as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. She was a friend, mentor and teacher to the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. She was born in 1910 and passed away in 1981.

Ellington once said of Williams that she is “perpetually contemporary. Her music retains a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like Soul on Soul.” Williams also has a local connection: Williams married John Williams who was a saxophonist and who played in Andy Kirk’s band in Oklahoma City in the 1930s. The group changed its name to “Twelve Clouds of Joy” and relocated to Tulsa, where Mary Lou was employed driving a hearse for an undertaker.

When the band relocated once again to Kansas City, she began sitting in with the band as well as serving as its arranger and composer. In later years, she went on to perform abroad, and to become a prolific composer and arranger, including religious works as well as jazz.

Attendees will appreciate the sights and sounds of the evening, which the relaxed, outdoor setting of the River West Festival Park provides. Starlight’s concerts are ideal entertainment for the entire family. The venue has free parking and is accessible to those with disabilities. Concessions will be available. The public is invited to bring blankets, lawn chairs, picnic dinners and pet dogs on leashes.

Guarantor sponsors for the 2010 season are the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Treeman Family Foundation, in honor of Jeff Treeman. Other major sponsors include: Cedar Creek, Circle Cinema, Creative State, Liberty Press, Local 94: American Federation of Musicians, the Music Performance Trust Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Public Radio Tulsa: /KWTU, Saied Music Company and The Jimmie & Helen Saied Foundation, Tulsa River Parks Authority, Universal Combustion Corporation, Waters Charitable Foundation and The Charles & Marion Weber Foundation.

This last concert of the summer also features a silent auction, which helps defray the costs of the concerts and helps keep the concerts free to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring cash or a checkbook to bid on great prizes. For more information, go online to or call 798- (7827).

Updated 07-23-2010

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