Nov 07, 2014 - ”MR. MOTOWN” SET TO PRESENT AN EVENING OF JAZZ CLASSICS AT THE JAZZ DEPOT
Last month, Tulsa's Jerome Dabney celebrated 30 years as a cruise-ship performer. And as he's sung for those crowds over the past three decades, the entertainer known in the cruise industry as “Mr. Motown” has made quite a few adjustments to his repertoire.
“It's really been one of those evolving situations,” he explains. “When I first started, I was doing a tribute show – not impersonations, but tributes to the music of Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, those artists. And then as the years passed, the audiences changed, and now there are a lot of really big Motown fans out there. I would say that in two years, if you're going to be an entertainer in the cruise industry, it might be your best bet to do a lot of disco-type stuff. The people who have the time and money to cruise are usually older people, so you want to be able to appeal to the majority of your crowd.”
For the past decade or so, both on sea and on land, Dabney has done a lot to earn that “Mr. Motown” tag – which, he notes, is “a monicker one of the cruise directors I worked with gave me, and it kind of stuck.” Over the past decade, he's toured internationally with Tribute – A Salute to the Temptations, branching out from Las Vegas to dates in England, Japan, and South America, as well as other spots around the globe. He also does a regular Motown show, a Stevie Wonder show, and, in 2012, toured Asia with the World Famous Platters, playing dates in the Philippine Islands and Singapore and appearing on a cruise ship in Malaysia.
Sunday, however, Mr. Motown becomes Mr. Standards, as Dabney returns to the music he began performing on ships back in the mid-'80s.
“What I plan to do on Sunday are the traditional jazz standards,” he says. “I was talking to Dean [DeMerritt] the other day, and I was telling him there are a lot of jazz tunes out there that are quote-unquote `jazzy-jazzy' – like `Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most.' That's a jazzy-jazzy song; your jazz connoisseur is going to know that song, but someone who just enjoys jazz music may not. I don't think a lot of effort is being spent on the basic jazz standard. When's the last time you heard someone singing `Misty'? So I told Dean, `I'm just going to offer up as many classic standards as I possibly can.'
“The show I do now is called An Evening of Motown Classics,” he adds.“But this show is going to be An Evening of Jazz Classics. I have a Nat King Cole medley I'm going to offer, and some of the really basic standard songs: `Satin Doll,' `Misty,' `Tenderly.' I'll do a couple of `jazzy-jazzy' songs, too.”
“Tenderly,” in fact, was the tune that brought DeMerritt and Dabney together. As DeMerritt remembered it, he and guitarist Frank Brown were hosting a jazz jam session in the Centennial Lounge of Tulsa's VFW Post 577. It was July, and DeMerritt had just returned to his native Tulsa after spending several years on the Atlanta scene.
“We saw this guy who was intently listening to us play, and then he came up and said, `I'd love to do “Tenderly” with you,'” remembers DeMerritt. “We thought, `If he wants to do “Tenderly” here, in this VFW hall, we'd better go ahead and let him do it.' And from his first chorus, we both knew he was something special.”
“I went to the jam session at the Jazz Depot about a month ago on a Tuesday evening, and I did one or maybe two songs,” says Dabney. “But this will be my first time on the main stage. I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be great.”
An Evening of Jazz Classics with Jerome Dabney and the Dean DeMerritt Jazz Tribe is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, November 9, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 East First Street.
Tickets can be purchased in advance online at JazzHallTickets.com or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-928-JAZZ (5299). 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 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 the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.