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May 13, 2013 - LEON ROLLERSON, TSAS JAZZ ENSEMBLES THIS SUNDAY

 

                                                 

 

            During his decades as a music-business professional, Leon Rollerson has dealt with just about any situation you can imagine. So, when the Tulsa-based multi-instrumentalist and producer was asked if there was any way he wanted to honor the young musicians in Zach Roddy’s program at the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, in his show.

            “We’d basically designed a two-hour show, with the focus on the young musicians,” he says. “It makes me feel good knowing that we working with with some great young musicians.”

            So, Rollerson will pack an amazing amount of talent into two hours, beginning with piano music from John Hamill, one of many performers associated with Rollerson.

            “I have a variety of people coming in,” Rollerson notes, “doing some old-school jazz, some new-school jazz, and some funky jazz. That’s to make sure that we entertain everybody in the audience. We’ve got old-school jazz like “Satin Doll” for the older members of the crowd, new-school jazz like “Girl from Ipanema” for the medium-aged crowd, and funky jazz for the 18- to 30-year-olds.  We’re mixing all those things to satisfy everybody there, with the whole program designed for listening and dancing pleasure.”

            And, as is his custom, Rollerson will use the opportunity to showcase some of the 30-plus musicians and singers he works with on a regular basis.

            “I always like to highlight the people in my organization, and Sunday we’ll have Joe Wilkinson, a wonderful senior citizen who’ll sing a beautiful song for everybody, and Victoria Ellington, who likes to sing all jazz, old- and new-school,” he says. “Luigi [Balletto], who’s a Tulsa legend, is going to join us. I’ll have [pianist] Mike Leland and [drummer] Spike Gore to keep all the funk in the right place, and I hope to have Mike Moore on trumpet and Jeff Robeson on trombone for my horn section.

            “ The people I have on stage,” he concludes, “will all be totally awesome.”

            It’ll be a tough act to follow, but three jazz groups from the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences are going to do exactly that, coming on after an hour-long set from Rollerson and company.

            “All of my jazz ensembles are going to be featured, starting with the beginning group,” says Zach Roddy, TSAT’s director of jazz. “They’ll play maybe 15 minutes, and then the Jazz Ensemble II will come on, followed by Jazz Ensemble I. The last set’s going to be more like 20-25 minutes. We know how to get each group on and off the stage pretty fast, so there won’t be a lot of time spent on that.”

            The combined TSAT repertoire includes standards like Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “Duke’s Place” – the latter, Roddy points out, “another name for the `C Jam Blues’ when it’s not done in C” – as well as the oft-recorded “Feeling Good,” from the 1964 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.  But the number that’ll have the most meaning for Roddy and his students is the one they plan to close with: “Minuano 6/8,” a Pat Metheny composition arranged by Bob Curnow.

            “It’s a Latin song that plays with the idea of how ¾ time and 6/8 time intersect with one another,” explains Roddy. “This will be our last concert together – I’m leaving for a job in Bentonville, Arkansas – and three years ago, when I first started with the school, I had them learn that song. It’s a difficult one, and we worked exclusively on it from January until the fourth week in April.

            “There are four people still playing in the ensemble who were in that first group,” he adds. “They were sophomores then, and they have been the glue holding our jazz program together. With their help, we put the song together in about three weeks this time, and we were able to carry that tradition all the way through.” 

             Leon Rollerson is set to begin at 5p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St.  The TSAS ensembles are scheduled to begin at approximately 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-1008. 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.  

            The event is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Spring 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.


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