Feb 11, 2013 - West Coast Duo Afton Hefley and Nick Mancini at the Jazz Depot Sunday
The British pop duo Tears for Fears scored its biggest hits in the mid-‘80s, right around the time Tulsa native Afton Hefley was born. Yet, rather improbably, the act that gave us “Shout,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Head over Heels” also figures into the musical voyage that brings Hefley back to her hometown Sunday for a Jazz Depot show with her frequent collaborator, Los Angeles-based vibraphonist Nick Mancini.
First, the backstory:
Growing up in Tulsa, Hefley recalls, “I took piano lessons, voice lessons, guitar, flute, and when I was at Union [High School], I was in choir and did a lot of musicals. I was a part of a lot of church music communities.
“Then, I started writing songs. I wanted to be able to record them, so I began looking around. I had a lot of male friends in high school who tinkered around with computers and things, but the only way it seemed to me I could really find out about recording was to go to school.”
So, after graduating from Union, Hefley headed out to the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Tempe, Arizona, where she earned a technical degree in audio engineering and the music business. Moving to Long Beach, California, for an internship, she began getting some engineering gigs in the L.A. area, which ultimately led to a job as production manager for Tears for Fears. In that capacity, she spent parts of the last four years on the road.
Meanwhile, Hefley continued pursuing her own songwriting and performing opportunities. She didn’t think it advisable, however, to let Tears for Fears know about it, feeling strongly that she should keep the two careers separate.
“During rehearsals, though, I’d be humming their songs—in perfect pitch—and I think they noticed that,” she says with a laugh. “Then, the bassist, Carl Smith, who’s very active in all the social media, stumbled onto one of my videos on YouTube. He said, `Hey, I saw your video, and you’re pretty good.’
After that, she adds, “Those guys were incredibly supportive of my doing music. When we were on a South American tour in 2011, they started asking me to come out and sing backing vocals on one of their songs, ‘Badman’s Song.’”
That same year, she met vibraphonist Mancini, who’d come west from upstate New York at about the same time as Hefley had migrated from Tulsa. They became friends, but they didn’t begin collaborating musically for almost a year.
“Nick comes more from the jazz school of thought,” she says. “His stuff is very rich, very cinematic. My music is pop music, but it’s influenced by classical and jazz. The things his playing brings out in my music just makes it magical.”
For Sunday’s performance, Mancini and Hefley (who “may be wielding a guitar,” she says) will be joined by bassist Jordan Hehl, her accompanist at a recent solo gig at Tulsa’s Hunt Club, and drummer Jared Johnson.
Hefley describes the music they’ll do as “re-imagined pop and original songs.”
“Some of the pop tunes are as recent as the early ‘80s, and that’s pretty recent for us,” she says with another laugh. “We’ll do some Burt Bacharach, some Peter Gabriel – we like `In Your Eyes’ –and probably a song by the Turtles, `You Showed Me.’ There’ll also be a mix of my original material and Nick’s original material.”
It’s a repertoire that’s kept them plenty busy on the West Coast.
“We play jazz clubs, a lot of art galleries, wine bars–places where the audience is more attentive,” says Hefley, who’s glad to know that the Jazz Depot is just that sort of venue.
“You know, I come back to Tulsa to visit multiple times a year, and I’ve passed by the Depot many times, but I’ve never actually been inside,” she admits. “This’ll be my first time to go in, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Afton Hefley and Nick Mancini are set to begin Sunday at 5:00 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. Tickets for the event 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 part of the Jazz Hall’s 2012-13 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.