Nov 01, 2013 - 2013 Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Inductee Hal Singer Headlines Annual Induction Gala and Ceremony


            Hal Singer—a nonagenarian bandleader and saxophonist who’s still a force on the international jazz scene, a hitmaking keyboardist-vocalist of the ‘50s and ‘60s, an architect of the musical style known as the Tulsa Sound, and a veteran pianist and bandleader well known to area jazz fans—is among the inductees to be honored at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s 2013 Induction Gala, set for Saturday, Nov. 16.

            Those honorees include Hal Singer, Papa John DeFrancesco, the late Earl Grant, the late J.J. Cale, the late Marvin Ash and Charles V. Gardner. Singer and Gardner are scheduled to perform at the event, as are fellow inductees the Shadow Lake Eight and Little Joe McLerran.

            Also being honored Jazz Hall are the late gospel music giant Albert Brumley, writer-historian Anita G. Arnold, and band director Euell Hanna.

            A Tulsa native who’s made Paris his home since the 1960s, 94-year-old Singer is a survivor of the 1921 race riots who spent his early career as a saxophonist in bands led by Ernie Fields and Jay McShann—two fellow Jazz Hall inductees—and Oran “Hot Lips” Page, former trumpeter for the Oklahoma City-based Blue Devils. As a solo artist in 1948, Singer hit the top of the R&B charts with an instrumental called “Corn Bread”; in the 1950s, he began performing and recording jazz, working with the likes of Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. Then, in 1965, after a European tour with Earl “Fatha” Hines, he settled in France, where he continues to play and record regularly. Both Singer and his remarkable career are the subjects of the 1999 documentary Hal Singer, Keep the Music Going.

            Singer will receive the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award.

            “The ease of which Hal Singer transitions from R&B to jump blues embodies the richness and depth of our musical heritage,” said Jason McIntosh, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO. “He played a major role in the evolution of jazz, and his influence continues to this day. It will be an honor to witness his robust musical talent on November 16th.”

            Renowned jazz organist “Papa John” DeFrancesco is credited with bringing about the renaissance of the Hammond organ. DeFrancesco gained a national reputation for playing the organ in an infectious hard bop syle. DeFrancesco began playing the trumpet when he was six, but did not begin playing the organ until his wife bought him one for his twenty-third birthday. After a few months of nearly nonstop practicing, he was ready to perform in clubs. In 1967, Papa John moved to Philadelphia and became part of the jazz scene there. In 1979, when his son Joey turned eight and started playing professionally, John put his own career on hold in order to assist his son. Over the past decade he has issued a series of acclaimed recordings including his latest “A Philadelphia Story” in a classic B-3 trio setting, with his sons John Jr. and Joey. DeFrancesco is slated to receive the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Living Legend Award.

            Grant, Gardner, Ash and the Shadow Lake Eight are the 2013 jazz inductees. Idabel native Grant first made the charts in 1958 with his debut single, “The End,” which became a Top Ten hit.  He would go on to record some 30 albums for Decca Records, including the top-selling Ebb Tide in 1961, before his 1970 death in an automobile accident. 

            Charles V. “Chuck” Gardner, originally from Iowa, has been a force on the Oklahoma jazz scene since 1992, when he began producing and performing in shows for the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, bringing to those gigs a wealth of musical experience that began when he joined an Iowa dance band at the age of 15. As an Air Force musician, he accompanied the likes of Nancy Wilson, Hoagy Carmichael, and Mel Torme; appeared on national television programs; produced recordings for Armed Forces Radio; and even performed as a soloist with the NORAD Command Band at Carnegie Hall.   He and his vocalist-bassist wife, Sandy—whose hometown is Tulsa—have also appeared together in major nightclubs and other venues across the country.

            Marvin Ash was superior string/stride player who brought his own sound and enthusiasm to prebop jazz. Influenced by such pianists as James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Joe Sullivan, Ash may have only been three years older than Dizzy Gillespie, but he certainly belonged to an earlier musical generation. Relocating from Tulsa to Los Angeles, Ash did extensive work in studios and worked for the Walt Disney music department, while remaining a fixture in the Los Angeles music circuit as a talented and valuable player.

            The Shadow Lake Eight is a legendary dance band that came out of the Oklahoma State University campus at Stillwater in 1958, put together to play a summer engagement at the Shadow Lake Resort in Noel, Missouri. An integrated and pioneering group in a time when black and white bandmates weren’t common, the Shadow Lake Eight went on to become a popular regional touring band, going through many personnel changes and still maintaining its ties to OSU, until 1967.

            J.J. Cale, who passed away in July, is the 2013 blues inductee. An internationally influential guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, Cale came out of the Tulsa club scene of the ‘50s to create such lasting songs as “Crazy Mama,” “Cocaine,” “After Midnight” and “The Breeze,” all of which reflected the blues and R&B he was exposed to in his native town. Cale’s laid-back, deep-groove, blues-influenced style is a major component of what’s become known as the classic Tulsa Sound.

            Albert E. Brumley, a composer and singer best known for the enduring spiritual “I’ll Fly Away,” is the gospel inductee. Born near Spiro, he spent much of his early life in the Oklahoma cotton fields before turning to music and music education. In addition to “I’ll Fly Away,” his more than 800 compositions include such classic gospel tunes as “Turn Your Radio On,” I’ll Meet You in the Morning,” and “If We Never Meet Again (This Side of Heaven).”

            Tulsa-based bluesman Little Joe McLerran is set to receive the Legacy Tribute Award, presented annually an up-and-coming jazz artist from Oklahoma. Over the past few years, McLerran has made a significant impact not only on the area blues scene, but also across the country and even the world, playing major festivals and touring the Middle East under the auspices of the State Department. In 2009, he took first place at the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

            Receiving the Spirit of Community Excellence Award, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions in the community toward supporting and promoting music and education, is Tecumseh native Anita G. Arnold, author of Charlie and the Deuce and co-author of Oklahoma City Music: Deep Deuce and Beyond

            Band director Euell Hanna will be recognized with the Zelia Breaux Distinguished Educator Award, which honors those individuals who have made significant contributions in music education. As the Verdigris High School band director for the last 27 years, Hanna started teaching jazz band students before Verdigris even had a high school. Under Hanna’s direction, the Verdigris High School Jazz Band recently won its tenth straight OSSAA State Jazz Championship; this was the twenty second overall title for the high school band.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s2013 Induction Gala is set for Saturday, Nov. 16, at downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. A reception starts at 6:00 p.m., with dinner at 7:00 p.m., followed by the awards show. Tickets are $100 from the Jazz Hall’s Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. Corporate tables are available for sponsorship.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fameis 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.