Feb 27, 2012 - Cindy Cain at the Jazz Depot, March 4


In its original incarnation, Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In” became a huge mid-1940s pop hit for Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters, working its way through the years into the pages of Great American Songbook. Featuring lyrics about starry skies and stretches of land full of cottonwood trees, the tune reflected wartime Hollywood’s obsession with the West’s wide-open spaces.

            Now, nearly 70 years later, vocalist and songwriter Cindy Cain plans to open her new Jazz Depot show with a lyrically altered “Don’t Fence Me In” that changes the classic movie-cowboy number into a statement of musical purpose.

            The first verse lays it all out:


            Oh give me jazz, lots of jazz, under Tulsa skies above

            But don’t fence me in

            Let me sing every kind of music that I love

            Don’t fence me in


            “I just wanted to let people know the show wasn’t going to be strictly jazz,” explains Cain. “There’s a solid first set of jazz, which is what they expect, but the second set is going to kick off with Big Joe Turner’s “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” and have a smattering of blues, gospel, and boogie-woogie, going back into jazz to close it out. I’m even going to play a little harmonica. That may surprise people, but I think they’ll like the things they don’t expect from me.

            “This is the first solo show I’ve had at the Jazz Hall,” she adds, “and I wanted to show some diversity.”

            Although Cain – who grew up in Pryor – has been known primarily as a jazz singer since moving back to northeastern Oklahoma from Washington, D.C. in the early part of the last decade, she didn’t begin her career with that tag. “I started out with rock ‘n’ roll and blues, and didn’t really move into jazz until I started doing music full-time in Washington,” she says. “I moved into jazz to get more gigs; I knew if I wanted to do music full-time successfully, I had to diversify into jazz. When I came to Tulsa, that continued.”

            Before the mid-‘90s, Cain could sing pretty much whatever she wanted, as she had a day job to pay the bills, She’d begun what she terms her “semi-pro” singing         several years earlier, while working with the Peace Corps in the African country of Cameroon. She’d continued to perform in Washington, while working as press secretary for Oklahoma Congressman Dave McCurdy. 
            “I wasn’t allowed to get paid for singing while I was in the Peace Corps, but there was a restaurant there that gave me food and drinks for singing twice a week with a Cameroonian band,” she recalls. “We’d do everything from `The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ to ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ to `The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’”

            She kept doing those eclectic sorts of shows until, as she notes, “Dave lost the election in ’94,” and she began competing more seriously for the D.C. jazz trade.

            Upon her return to the state, her jazzy orientation continued, thanks in great part to her running into a local jazz legend who’d once been her instructor. “I’d taken voice lessons from Pam Van Dyke [Crosby] when I was in junior college, before I left Tulsa,” she says. “When I came back, there was a concert at the Jazz Hall of Fame, and Pam, who’d been in a horrible car accident, was there. She was sitting in a wheelchair with both legs broken, and I went up to her and said, `You won’t remember me, but I took voice lessons from you.’”

            That rekindled acquaintance quickly blossomed into friendship, and Cain has since performed many times under the auspices of the Jazz Hall of Fame, often with Crosby on the same bill. Currently, they’re two-thirds of the vocalists (joining Rebecca Ungerman) in Sweet & Hot Productions’ twice-monthly Dance at the Depot events.

            Cain’s “Don’t Fence Me In” show features Scott McQuade on piano, Mike Cameron on saxophone, Jordan Hehl on bass, and Wade Robertson on drums.  They’re all scheduled to take the stage Sunday at 5 p.m. 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 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.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            Cain’s show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Spring 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.