Oct 03, 2014 - VOCAL JAZZ GROUP SHERIDAN ROAD ENCORES SUNDAY AT JAZZ DEPOT
Just about four months ago, Jazz Depot patrons met Sheridan Road for the first time. It was only the second public performance for the three-man, three-woman vocal-jazz group, whose members all came out of Tulsa Signature Symphony's 40-voice chorale.
One of those vocalists is Dr. Barry Epperley, erstwhile artistic director and founder of the Signature Symphony. And for him, the roots of the group that grew out of the chorale are anchored in the late 1960s and early '70s, when he was pursuing his doctorate in musical arts at the University of Southern California and working full-time for the Walt Disney Company at Disneyland.
“I had two callings at the park,” he recalls. “One was with a vocal group called the Kids of the Kingdom – Disneyland being `the Magic Kingdom' – which was a 12-voice group with a five-piece ensemble. We did six shows a day, six days a week, at the Tomorrowland Stage, which was a pretty good-sized stage they had back then. Musically, we did a lot of Americana, and all sorts of Disney music. I did some of the arranging, and there were arrangements that had really fun, tight harmonies.
“Then, when I wasn't working with the Kids, I was kind of the liaison for the groups performing there, especially at the Tomorrowland Stage and the Carnation Plaza Gardens, which is where we had the big bands.”
When Epperley says “big bands,” he means the great jazz and swing outfits of the 1930s and '40s, led by people like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry James, and Charlie Barnett, all of whom came to Disneyland to play.
“Their sound was making a comeback,” he notes, “and I think that was really the time I became enamored with jazz. I met and worked with all those people, and I got to be friends with Duke Ellington. He came in for three years, '69, '70, and '71, and he brought his big band, stayed over at the Disneyland Hotel, and slept all day. He had this crummy little electric piano that he kept in his room, and after he got through [with his concert] he'd write music all night. I'd go over and wake him up at about six p.m. and order breakfast for him, and we would sit and talk while he had his breakfast and got ready. Then I would drive him to the park and pull up to the back of the stage. All this time we were chatting. He had stories, and his was a world I had not ever experienced. So over the three years we sort of got to know each other, and when I left for Washington to do the White House stuff, he sent me a Christmas card every year. He just added me to his list – a nice list to be on.”
Following his tenure as conductor for the U.S. Army Chamber Orchestra at the White House, Epperley returned to his home state and settled in Tulsa, where he founded the Oklahoma Sinfonia and Signature Symphony – which, as he points out, have always had big-band components.
For Sheridan Road's Sunday show, the band will be considerably smaller: a trio consisting of pianist Rob Muraoka, bassist Jim Loftin, and drummer George Toumayan. They join Sheridan Road vocalists Jenn Green, Marla Patterson, Steve Raiford, Brian Wilson, Jennifer Wilson, and Epperley.
“We're doing some of the songs people really liked from last time – `Everybody Loves My Baby' and the Turtles' `Happy Together,' says Epperley. “And Brian is doing a solo on `Nice Work if You Can Get It.' Steve got such a response on `Route 66' that he's doing it again, and the ladies are doing that nice chart on `Daddy.'”
Of the new tunes, he adds, “We're doing `Come Fly with Me,' a very nice chart that we found, and `Sweet Georgia Brown.' Now that one – it's a stinker. The band is hanging on, and we're all going in 12 different directions, but it's strange and lovely. It's probably one of the hardest things we've ever tried. But it's neat, and we're having a good time with it.”
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 Autumn Concert Series.
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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.