Feb 13, 2015 - MODERN OKLAHOMA JAZZ ORCHESTRA MAKES JAZZ DEPOT DEBUT SUNDAY
Sunday marks the first official concert of the Modern Oklahoma Jazz Orchestra, a twenty-piece aggregation that's Tulsa's newest big band. Its roots, however, stretch back to the area jazz scene of the early and mid-1980s, when trumpeter Mike Moore was having quite a time leading his own large group of musicians through a series of dates in clubs that are now, unfortunately, long defunct.
“When I was playing at the Boston Avenue Market, Freddie Hubbard brought his band and sat in,” recalled Moore, whose group was simply called the Mike Moore Big Band. “Chet Baker played a concert with us. A bunch of Buddy Rich's players came out after a concert and played with us.
“One night at [the legendary Tulsa jazz venue] the Nine of Cups, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis played a concert at the PAC and stayed over to catch the Modern Jazz Quartet, which was playing a concert a couple of days later. After that show, both bands came down to the Nine of Cups. The stage there was just the top of a walk-in refrigerator, and you had to climb a ladder to get to it. We had all these guys up there playing, and I wanted to get off the stage to make more room for them, but it was so crowded I couldn't even get to the ladder.”
Back then, he adds, “there was this golden triangle of the Boston Avenue Market, the Nine of Cups, and Magicians Theatre, where you could just walk along and hear so much jazz.”
Although those days are long gone, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's Jazz Depot has emerged as Tulsa's premier jazz listening room. And after a long time away from bandleading, due to the requirements of teaching positions at the college and high school levels followed by a couple of bouts with medical problems, Moore has come along to take up the reins of this brand-new orchestra – which, he notes, began fittingly enough at the Depot.
“We started rehearsing at the Jazz Hall of Fame on Wednesday nights,” he said. “It started out as strictly a rehearsal band; one of the draws was that local arrangers and composers could bring their stuff in. And if singers were hip enough and involved enough and had deep enough pockets, they could bring in charts, and we'd play their charts. They could sing with a big band, which is a rare opportunity these days.”
By the time the group plays its Sunday concert, they'll have been working together in those weekly rehearsals for about four months. Given the caliber of musicians in the Modern Oklahoma Jazz Orchestra, that's plenty of time to put together a first-class concert, one whose theme, Moore says, “is sort of a survey of music that's come from bands that play the blues.”
“We've got wonderful players,” he adds. “The quality of musicianship is certainly enviable and absolutely not a problem.”
According to Moore, those who remember the glory days of the Mike Moore Big Band may experience a bit of deja vu at Sunday's show.
“If you were a person who came to hear that older incarnation of the band, you might remember that we used, as sort of our unofficial theme song, the Oliver Nelson arrangement of Duke Ellington's `In A Mellow Tone.' We're doing that on Sunday. Additionally, we're doing Frank Foster's arrangement of `Tomorrow's Blues Today,' which was recorded by Woody Herman. Frank Foster just passed away, so it's sort of a nod in his direction. And that was something that was also done by the older band.
“We're also doing things that weren't done by that band,” he adds. “I now have the Ernie Wilkins arrangement of `Everyday I Have the Blues,' which was recorded by Count Basie and Joe Williams, so we're going to do that one. And I have, from another Basie album, Billy Byers' arrangement of `Wee Small Hours of the Morning.' We never had that in the old days.
“My method of operation is the same, more or less, as it was when I was doing the thing in the '80s,” he concludes. “So if you liked that – if you liked the quality, if you liked the content, if you enjoyed yourself, it's only going to be better now, because, perhaps, it's even more rare.”
The Modern Oklahoma Jazz Orchestra, directed by Mike Moore, is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, February 15, 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 www.jazzhalltickets.com, or by calling 918-928-JAZZ. 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 2014-5 Winter 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.