May 18, 2014 - Three Oklahoma Stars Set to Shine at the Jazz Depot


                  Jana Jae stops short of saying that the Great Minds Play Alike (Occasionally) concert, set for next Thursday night at the Jazz Depot, has taken her outside her comfort zone – and for a very good reason.

                  “Well, it's not really outside my comfort zone, because I'm really enjoying it,” says the performer known as the First Lady of Country Fiddle. “But I'm learning new material. I've never done, “My One and Only Love.” I've never done, “Take Five” in E-flat minor, with six flats.” She laughs. “It's not an easy key for the violin, and no open strings when you start improvising.

                  “So, I'm learning new things, and I guess you could say it's kind of stretching me. But it's not stretching me too much. It's very fun – that's the thing. I'm loving every moment.”

                  For the show, Jae joins pianist Donald Ryan and vocalist Barbara McAlister. All three are versatile performers with fans and followers all over the world, and each is known best for a certain musical genre: McAlister for opera, Ryan for jazz, and Jae for country music.

Because of those disparate musical styles, they would seem to make an unlikely trio. In fact, Jae says, it's just the opposite.

                  “We are each going to do something representative of our own genre,” she explains.

                  “My genre, what people know me for the best, is more country and fiddling.  Barbara is more operatic, but she does theatre as well. And of course Don is going to do a couple of his own original compositions. But then we three are going to do `Take Five,' `Summertime,' `How High the Moon' and a few others together.

                  “You know, it's really going to be a wonderful gathering of music that makes you want to explore further. I just love it. I've been playing until two or three in the morning, excited about all these new things we're doing.” 

                  The idea for the concert came from a couple of different places, she says.

                  “Barbara and I have been on the Oklahoma Arts Council's performing roster for years, so we've seen each other perform in showcase-type situations. But we'd never done anything together. I didn't quite envision how it could work until I saw her perform in Muskogee at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. I thought, `My gosh, she has a wonderful connection with the audience, and a presence,' and somehow it just all grew.

                  “The concert probably actually took shape at a luncheon with Barbara and Nancy Sies, who was the manager of the Tulsa Philharmonic when I soloed with them a couple of times at Symphony at Sunset,” she adds. “We were visiting about the possibility of putting something together, concert-wise, and we just hit it off really well. Then I called Don, who's absolutely stellar. He can play anything, and he was so excited about doing this. I was honored in how he responded.”

                  Ryan, Jae notes, will be onstage for the whole concert, sometimes playing solo, sometimes working with McAlister and/or her.

                  “We're coming together at the very beginning, and we'll do a few things individually, and then we'll come together again at the end,” she says. “After we start out together, Don'll do his solo thing, and then I'll join him and we'll do `My One and Only Love” and a few others that are really nice. I've given him a few things that kind of stretch him.” She laughs again. “We might do something a little bit on the classical side, too.

                  “I asked Don what jazz tune he enjoyed playing the most, what standard, and he said `My One and Only Love,'” she adds. “I hadn't been familiar with it, but it is so beautiful. And that's what I mean about being so excited about this, about playing these few new tunes, and really working them out to be high performance quality. Every single thing is going to be dynamic, and very beautiful. It's just going to be a dynamite concert.”  

                  “Putting amazing musicians together is something we for,” said Jason McIntosh, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO. “Until recently, Jana, Donald and Barbara had never even been in the same room, and now they are producing a concert together. Their high caliber of talent makes the trio a natural fit.”

                  Great Minds Play Alike (Occasionally) is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, May 29, 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, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $10, reserved table seating $20.

                  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.