Jan 07, 2014 - GUITARIST HEATH HAM DEBUTS QUARTET AT SUNDAY JAZZ DEPOT SHOW
“Charlie Christian is the first guitarist I studied, and then I got into Tal Farlow and Pat Metheny, and, for a long time, Wes Montgomery,” he says. “Also, George Benson. And I probably listen to Frank Vignola more than anyone else right now.
“But I really like Freddie Green. I like to play my chords like Freddie Green – not real fancy or real crazy, just kind of in there.”
Besides Green, who anchored the Count Basie Orchestra for decades, Ham has also been inspired by another superlative rhythm guitarist, Eldon Shamblin. He was unable to study with Shamblin, the Tulsa resident who passed away in 1998 after years as the linchpin of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys and other western-swing and jazz bands, but Ham certainly knows Shamblin’s music.
“I studied Eldon for years with Joe Carr, one of my teachers at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, where I went from ’06 to ‘09,” he explains. “In fact, Joe Carr wrote a Mel Bay [guitar-instruction] book called Western Swing Guitar Styles while he was teaching me about Eldon, and it’s all based on what Eldon did.”
Although he’s played a pretty good amount of jazz around Tulsa, notably in his standing gig as the lunchtime guitarist at Hebert’s restaurant, Sunday will mark the first time he’s brought his own group into the Jazz Depot. It isn’t, however, the first time he’s played that stage. That happened four years ago, when he was a part of the all-star aggregation that presented, under the auspices of both the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and the Tulsa Symphony,From the Tulsa Sound to the British Invasion. More recently, he was featured in a Sunday concert event with the Jambalaya Jass Band – the long-lived group led by his dad, trombonist and singer Steve Ham.
“I’ve always wanted to get a jazz band together and play there at the Jazz Hall, to kind of carry on the tradition of what I grew up with,” Heath says. “So this is a very cool thing.”
Two of the Heath Ham Jazz Quartet’s members, saxophonist Mike Cameron and bassist Jordan Hehl, are not only familiar names to Depot audiences, but also to Heath himself.
“I’ve worked with Jordan before, many times – he actually toured with me in my band, Tornado Alley, which a hip-hop, reggae, rock ‘n’ roll band, a really good club band,” says Ham. “We went to Lubbock together, Midland, Farmington, New Mexico, all over. And Mike Cameron and I have jammed a lot together at a lot of sessions around Tulsa. We have a couple of music videos, YouTube videos, of Mike jamming with me and, actually, Jordan.”
Cameron, he adds, was responsible for bringing aboard the fourth member of the quartet, drummer-percussionist Michael Bremo. Currently pursing a master’s degree in music at the University of Central Oklahoma, Bremo is a young veteran player from the Oklahoma City area and a recent graduate of the Jazz Academy at Rotterdam University. While in the Netherlands, he performed at a New Year’s concert for the Queen of Holland in Amsterdam. He’s also accompanied such notable jazz acts as Alex Han, Oscar Stagnaro, and Alex Brown, and regularly performs at the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival in Aruba.
Like Ham and the other members of the quartet, Bremo has shown himself to be an adept performer of all sorts of jazz. Ham says, however, that the band’s Sunday repertoire will be classic swing.
“We’re going to go anywhere from the Dixieland era to, probably, no later than Wes Montgomery,” he notes. “I’m not going to get too far out into the bebop stuff or real crazy jazz. I’m just going to keep it swinging and do some good tunes.”
The Heath Ham Jazz Quartet is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, January 12, 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, fromwww.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at918-281-8609. 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 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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