Dec 15, 2013 - ‘Tis the Season for Jazz Depot’s Christmas Gospel Celebration


            As he’s done since the year before his 1991 induction into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, gospel artist Dr. Joey Crutcher is staging a Christmas concert that showcases, as he says, “the different styles that gospel music can really bring.”

            He prefers, however, not to promote his Christmas Gospel Celebration as a “variety show.”

            “No, we don’t like calling it that,” Crutcher says. “In the church, we call them `musicals.’ We just try to highlight some different talents from in and around the Tulsa area.”

            As per tradition, there will be a performance by the choir from the Tulsa chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, a group founded in 1967 by the Rev. James Cleveland – perhaps the major driving force in modern gospel music – and star gospel performer Albertina Walker. There are some 250 chapters worldwide, including Tulsa’s, for which Dr. Crutcher is the music director.

            “For the past five or six years, we’ve featured the Gospel Music Workshop Choir, Tulsa Chapter, and this year we’re still going to feature them, but we’ll feature other people, too, in the first half of the show,” notes Crutcher. “We’re going to have a young lady named Kandy Williamson, who’s moved from Kansas City to Tulsa and has a gospel project. She used to be a member of the Kansas City chapter of the Gospel Workshops of America; she’s with the Tulsa chapter now.

            “We’re also going to have a gospel ensemble called the Heralds of Praise. They’re from the New Heights Christian Center here in Tulsa, and there’s another lady, from the Bahamas, we call Evangelist Forbes.”

            Also on the bill is Oklahoma City’s Violet Nash.

            “I’ve known Violet for years,” says Crutcher. “She’s part of the Oklahoma City chapter [of the Gospel Music Workshop of America], and she sings with the Ambassadors Choir, too.

            “I’ll be playing a lot of the music, but we also have Keith Jimmerson playing the grand piano,” he adds. “I’m going to be playing the Hammond B3, and my son will be doing special effects – playing strings and a whole lot of effects. His name is Joey LaRon Crutcher. Then we’re going to have percussion, played by my nephew, Jeremy Williams. That makes up the band.”

            Along with the choir from the local Gospel Music Workshop of America, that group of musicians and vocalists will offer Jazz Depot audiences some very good examples of the breadth and diversity of styles under the gospel-music umbrella.

            “What we do is gospelize different genres of music,” he says, “so you’ll find all kinds of music. We take a lot of the European hymns and gospelize them, swinging them, making them kind of upbeat.

            “If you noticed the memorial services and everything that they were doing for Nelson Mandela, you saw that all those people had a beat,” he adds. “It’s a little pulse, like a heartbeat. They walk down the street, and they kind of bounce. That’s the way our people are; it’s just part of our heritage. So we encompass that here, and we do it in all of our music – jazz, blues and gospel. We work on the off-beat, not on the beat. If it’s 4/4, we clap on the two and the four a lot of the time. We call it clapping off-beat – just syncopating the music.”

            That’s the kind of insight he’s been giving Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame audiences since 1990, when Jazz Hall founder Senator Maxine Horner asked him and others to help spread the word about the kinds of music celebrated in that building.

            “She commissioned everybody that was in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame to try to educate the public about jazz, gospel, and blues,” he explains. “So we did a lot of studying about gospel music, seeing how it was related to blues and jazz. Jazz and blues started primarily in clubs and bars, and when those musicians got saved and went to the church, they took that style with them. We called it `coming out of the world.’  So we wanted to educate people about that.

            “That’s how it started. Since then, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame has had a concert series every year. And we just have to close out the season with gospel music.”

            “Dr. Crutcher is an Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inductee,” said Jason McIntosh, Jazz Hall CEO. “And his annual holiday show has become a Christmas tradition. This concert’s display of talent illustrates the work Dr. Crutcher and the Tulsa chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America do in our community.”

            Dr. Joey Crutcher’s Christmas Gospel Celebration is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, December 22, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, from, 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 2013-14 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.



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