Nathan Eicher Quartet Maiden Concert Set for Sunday
Bassist Nathan Eicher has shared the Jazz Depot stage with a number of top-notch musicians, playing there twice with his string-jazz band Mischievous Swing and, most recently, making a big impression alongside Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame drummer Washington Rucker, an experience Eicher calls "really a special evening for me."
Now, it's his turn to lead his own group into the Depot. Sunday marks the maiden voyage of the Nathan Eicher Quartet, whose members, in addition to Eicher, include Ryan Hatcher (trumpet), Stephen Schultz (guitar), and Mark Giammario (drums).
"I'vc played with all these guys individually, but this is the first time for this specific group to come together," notes Eicher. "I put it together with the intent of all of us being able to play some original material we had composed. We're going to play some familiar favorites, too, to kind of ease the listener in. I think we'll do `Caravan' and `Girl from Ipanema,' `Just Friends' and the tune `Pure Imagination' from [the movie] Willy Wonka - we've got a nice little 5/4 arrangement of that song, which Ryan did.
"Then, we've got 10 to 12 original pieces; each person in the band has composed at least one of them."
Those numbers, he adds, "really come out of the jazz tradition."
"We don't get into any free jazz, but we play a fusion tune, and we play a couple of tunes in odd meter, what I call post-bop. Ryan has a piece that has a lot of what I call Kansas City mute effects; it pays homage to that sound. We have a lot of Latin-influenced material, and swing material, and a couple of my own tunes have melodies that are almost like vocal melodies. They come very much out of that old swing vocal-tune tradition. But then I also have a tune in 7/4 [time], that has a very discernable melody, but it's kind of ethereal in the sense of creating an atmosphere. It's called `The Circus Comes to Town,' and I attempt to create, with this little bit of an off-kilter rhythm pattern, the feeling of the circus. So we have a big variety of stuff that comes out of so many of the traditions of jazz."
Like Eicher himself, the other musicians in the Nathan Eicher Quartet play a lot at the other end of the Turner Turnpike, in the Oklahoma City area. In fact, he got acquainted with two-thirds of them via the University of Central Oklahoma's well-known jazz studies program, located in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond.
"I met Mark there; we were both doing our master's at roughly the same time," says Eicher. "Stephen is currently going to UCO. And I met Ryan, who went to school at Stillwater, through a mutual friend."
Eicher and Giammario have a steady gig playing together at Oklahoma City's Hefner Grill in an outfit called, appropriately enough, the Hefner Grill Trio. The two often work with another Oklahoma City performer who's played the Jazz Depot himself, vocalist Justin Echols.
"I play with Mark all the time," says Eicher. "I'm playing with him three times a week most weeks, and I've developed this very, very nice relationship as a player with him. I think we have a good sense of what we're going to give one another, how to complement each other. Having a drummer and bassist paired like that brings, I think, a lot of cohesiveness to a group."
Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, he believes, have "a tremendous amount of very, very good players."
"But," he adds, "with the exception of places like the [UCO] Jazz Lab and Hefner Grill, where I perform all the time, I don't think there are as many venues in Oklahoma City that consistently have jazz as there are in Tulsa. I'm impressed by the fact that every night of the week I can go and hear jazz in Tulsa. In Oklahoma City, to my knowledge, that's just not happening. It's possible that it's there and the word just hasn't gotten out. There are a lot of great players, a lot of people I love playing with down there. But I think the main difference is that there just aren't as many venues and nothing like the Jazz Hall."
The Nathan Eicher Quartet is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 9, 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 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 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 the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.