Jun 23, 2014 - HAM & HAM ON MENU AT SUNDAY'S JAZZ DEPOT SHOW
HAM & HAM ON MENU AT SUNDAY'S JAZZ DEPOT SHOW
One of Oklahoma's musical treasures, trombonist and vocalist Steve Ham has been a high-profile, first-call player in the Tulsa area for decades, running his popular group the Jambalaya Jass Band and working as a music educator for the Allen Bowden Public Schools for most of that time as well. He's a member of both the Tulsa Playboys and the Red Dirt reggae outfit Diffident Rebel, and he's traveled across the country playing gigs with many other acts, including Bob Wills' Texas Playboys.
Heath Ham is a young, up-and-coming guitarist-vocalist who's proficient in styles ranging from hip-hop to western swing. In addition to fronting his own touring rock band, Tornado Alley, he also works with Steve in the Jambalaya Jass Band and Diffident Rebel.
They're father and son, of course, which makes music their family business. But there was a time when things didn't look as though they'd work out that way.
“In middle school, in the sixth grade, he played in the [Allen Bowden] jazz band,” recalls Steve. “He was improvising and using his ear then, but that was the trumpet.”
“It wasn't like I was wanting to play trumpet for a living,” adds Heath. “At that time, I didn't know I was going to be a musician. When I was younger, I wanted to be an athlete.”
It all changed for him, he says, when he heard some “underground recordings” of Red Dirt star Jason Boland, cut live in Stillwater.
“I liked how he was doing it, and I heard how he interacted with the crowd and got the party on and stuff, and I thought, `Man, that would be cool to be able to do that.'”
It was his senior year of high school, and a friend named Sean Proctor had a spare guitar. The two of them began jamming together just about nightly. And when the holidays rolled around, Heath told his folks he wanted a guitar for Christmas.
“We went to Roy & Candy's Music and got the guitar and gave it to him,” Steve remembers. “You get a kid an instrument, you know, and you don't figure they'll do much with it. But he went right after it.”
Eventually, wanting to learn about the music business and reach the next level as a guitarist, he traveled to Levelland, Texas and enrolled in the music program at that city's South Plains University. From 2006 through 2009, he studied with such pros as Joe Carr, Alan Munde, and Emily Wheeler.
“When I was down there, I started thinking about how, when I came back, I'd like to start playing with my dad,” he notes. “So I asked my guitar teacher, Emily Wheeler, to teach me some Dixieland and some other jazz, and that's how I learned [the music of] Wes Montgomery, Coltrane, Charlie Parker – all that post-bop and bebop stuff. I was learning all that, and I was like, `Man, this is fun, but it's a lot of thinking for one song.'”
He chuckles. “Then, I started playing swing, and I asked my dad to send a [Jambalaya] set list to South Plains, so I could start working on those songs. I did, and I came back and started playing with Jambalaya – probably before I should've. The first time I ever played with them, I believe, was at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2009.”
Since then, the two Hams have performed together regularly both in groups and as a duo; they'll be doing the latter Sunday.
“When my dad's in a band, he's humble,” says Heath. “He's a humble person, and he doesn't like to brag much. But when it's just him and me, I'm that little devil over his left shoulder saying, `Tell 'em about the Ray Charles gig.' He'll be saying, `no, no,' and I'll say, `C'm'on, Dad. Okay, everybody, my dad's going to tell you about this.'” He laughs. “I force him to give out more information, more interesting facts about the places he's been and the things he's done.
“So we'd like people to come out, because we're going to have a good time, play everyone's favorite stuff, and laugh and tell stories. We're practicing a bunch of tunes, and we'll probably have a set list and my dad'll say, `This is how it's going to be.' Then, we'll get up on stage – and we won't do it like that at all.”
The Ham & Ham concert is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28, 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 show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 Summer 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.