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Nov 02, 2013 - Cole Porter Tribute Brings Top Tulsa Performers to Jazz Depot

            A half-century after his death, Cole Porter still sells tickets.

            That’s certainly true at Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, anyway, whose regular tributes to the famed American composer consistently draw some of the biggest crowds of the year. The 2013 version is set for Sunday, Nov. 10, and features singers Angie Cockrell, Cindy Cain, Sandy Gardner, Larry Cochran, and Darell Christopher, along with co-producers Pam Van Dyke Crosby and Cynthia Simmons. Crosby says one or two more vocalists may be added to the group, which will perform with a trio composed of Bill Crosby on bass, Tony Yohe on drums, and 2013 Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Gardner on piano.

            “The singers are all volunteering their time,” notes Ms. Crosby. “It’s a fundraiser for the Jazz Hall of Fame.”

            The Jazz Hall couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to raise funds, given the ticket-selling potential of a Porter tribute. Crosby’s producing partner, Simmons, believes the enduring popularity of these Jazz Depot shows has to do with a couple of factors.

            “First,” she says, “people know Cole Porter. They know the music. They know the songs. And then, adding to that, they know the people who are singing them. I think that makes for a great show and a wonderful, fun evening.”

            “He wrote so many songs, with such a variety of possibilities, and rhythms, and subjects,” adds Crosby. “He just wrote hundreds and hundreds of things, everything from `Another Opin’in’, Another Show’ to  `I Love Paris,’ from `Too Darn Hot’ to `I Concentrate on You.’

            “And jazz musicians have embraced his material, too, because the melodies a lot of times are complicated, and they have a lot of room in them to improvise. It’s just all great music.”

            Like Simmons, Crosby believes that having a number of different singers perform during the course of the evening is another plus for the Porter shows.

            “The people at the Jazz Hall love that – to be able to see a lot of different people, and hear a lot of different voices,” she explains. “We’ll do kind of a different opening [this year], with everybody parading in and walking around on stage, and we’ll say their names and introduce them. It’s going to be kind of like an old Broadway show.”

            Getting those cast members together, Simmons says, was one of the easiest parts of producing the concert.

            “We have a fabulous jazz community here. We all work together, we’re friends, we like each other. So when we go to people and say, `Hey, will you sing a couple of tunes on this show?’ they say, `Sure.’ Sometimes they come to us:  ‘I know you’re doing a Cole Porter show. Let me do a song or two.’ We haven’t had any resistance. We’ve got a great community and we all come together for good causes.”

            While Simmons has staged her own concerts at the Jazz Depot, as well as participating in other shows with large casts, this is her first time to not only sing in a Porter tribute at the Depot, but also to produce a multi-artist showcase.

            “The biggest thing is making sure you don’t have duplicate songs between people,” she says. “Somebody might say, `Well, I want to sing `My “Heart Belongs to Daddy,”’ and you have to say, `Oh, wait, Angie said she’s going to do that song. Can you pick another one?’   That’s probably the most complicated thing with a show like this.”

            Simmons says she’s picked up a lot from Crosby, a veteran at producing and singing in these sorts of extravaganzas.

            “Pam is a master,” she notes. “For a lot of this, I’ve simply sat back and watched her so I could learn, because she’s so good at it. I’ve watched her do it in the shows I’ve been in, and I’ve been learning a lot from her.”

            And one of the things she’s undoubtedly learned is just how much Pam Van Dyke Crosby enjoys putting on a concert like this one.

            “It’s so much fun to be able to do a show with a lot of people,” says Crosby. “These casts always love working together, and everybody really has a good time.”

            A Tribute to Cole Porter is set to begin at 5:00p.m. Sunday at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, 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. 

            The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2013 Autumn 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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