Sep 08, 2015 - NEW NSU JAZZ STUDIES DIRECTOR HEADLINES JAZZ DEPOT CONCERT SUNDAY
From the beginning of his life, Dr. Clark Gibson has been on the move.
“My father was a coal miner,” says the saxophonist, flutist, composer, and bandleader. “I moved around my whole childhood, and I guess I just kept moving around. But I spent my formative years in Denver. I was born there, and I started there as a musician. I've been playing professionally for 20 years now, beginning when I was 16.”
Besides Denver, Dr. Gibson has plied his musical trade in cities like Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, and Birmingham, Ala., on cruise ships, and as a member of the touring Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Now, his skill as a player and teacher has brought him to the Tulsa area, where he's replaced another noted saxman, Tommy Poole, as director of jazz studies at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. (Poole left to take a similar position at Oklahoma State University.)
And true to form, Dr. Gibson has wasted little time in becoming a part of the local scene. For his inaugural Jazz Depot concert Sunday, he'll be joined by noted Tulsa players Edwin Garcia Jr. on bass and Steve Merrick on piano, along with Fayetteville, Ark.-based drummer Steve Wilkes.
“We're mostly going to stay in the straight-ahead jazz vernacular,” he says of the show. “We'll do a lot of standards and some bebop tunes. And I might bring in some originals, just for the fun of it.”
As a teenager, Dr. Gibson began having so much fun with his music that he never finished high school. (“I just wanted to play,” he explains.) Eventually, he got his GED, but he didn't start pursuing higher education until the relatively advanced age of 27.
“When I moved to Seattle, I decided that I wanted to teach college, so I started and just kept going straight through until I got my doctorate, from the University of Illinois in Champaign,” he says. “They have four big bands there, and I was a teaching assistant and director of the fourth band for a year and the third band for another year. I also taught classes on jazz history at a community college.”
In Seattle, where he got his undergraduate degree, Dr. Gibson played with a number of local groups as well as national touring acts.
“There's a pretty big Latin American population there, so I played a lot of salsa gigs,” he notes. “I worked with Tito Puente Jr. for a while, and with Lalo Rodriguez, a famous guy from Puerto Rico. Later on, in Birmingham, Alabama, I did a lot of work with a great bass player named Cleve Eaton. He was in the Basie band for a long time.”
In addition to working in other groups, Dr. Gibson has usually had one of his own going, stretching all the way back to the early part of his career, when his Clark Gibson Quartet was nominated for Best Jazz Group in Colorado by the Denver-based Westword Magazine.
“I've always done a lot of work as a bandleader,” he says. “One of the later projects I've done is a group called the Old Style Sextet. We released a CD last year and were invited to perform at the Macau Jazz and Blues Festival in Macau, China. It was a worldwide competition for professional groups. We got second place and won $20,000.
“We just did the Elkhart Jazz Festival in Indiana, and I imagine we'll keep doing things,” he adds, “but I'm pretty tied up with the project I'm working on now. I'm really into Charlie Parker, and [the famous 1950 recording] Charlie Parker with Strings. When I was doing some research I found about 10 other arrangements written for him to do with strings, by guys like Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, George Russell, and Mercer Ellington. They'd written these arrangements in 1950, but Parker never played them. No one had ever played them.”
So Dr. Gibson went into the studio with other musicians, including a string section, and got the arrangement recorded. The subsequent disc is due out in October from the Chicago-based BluJazz Records, which also released the Old Style Sextet's eponymous CD.
Meanwhile, in addition to teaching and working on his new record, Dr. Gibson has been checking out the local scene. “One thing I've noticed in Tulsa is that there are a lot of duos, because the clubs don't want to support a quartet,” he says. “We need more people, pushing this music…connecting it with a younger audience.”
“We want everyone to come out and give Dr. Gibson an Oklahoma Jazz Hall welcome to our local music scene,” says Jason McIntosh, Jazz Hall CEO. “He’s a great player and a top-notch educator, with a ton of experience in the bandstand and in the classroom, and everywhere in between.”
Dr. Clark Gibson in Concert is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, September 13, 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 2015 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 preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.