Apr 02, 2012 - Bruner, Eicher & Ellicott @ Depot

 As is the case with any city boasting a vibrant music scene, Tulsa’s a town with its own shining musical stars. Three of those are guitarist Mark Bruner and multi-instrumentalist Shelby Eicher – who’ve been around for nearly three of decades performing in a dizzying variety of genres – and vocalist Annie Ellicott, close to a generation younger, whose youth belies her onstage experience.

  Now, the veterans Eicher and Bruner have added Ellicott to form what some are already calling a jazz supergroup. While Bruner stops short of that appellation, he acknowledges that there’s something special going on among the three.

            “I’d call it an improvisational trio,’ he says.  “Annie’s voice is an instrument as well, and this trio gives her plenty of space to be spontaneously creative, which is really her strong suit.

            “You know, she played sax in her high school band,’ he adds, “\and I think her vocal improvisational abilities are a direct result of that. She has a gift for phrasing that probably started when she took up the saxophone. That gift is phenomenal. She never ceases to amaze me.”

            Eicher and Bruner are veteran musicians not easily wowed. Both were already professionals when they met in 1984 in Washington, D.C., as members of different bands scheduled to perform at the Capitol’s Fourth of July concert that year. Bruner was playing guitar with Tulsa’s Ronnie Dunn, a few years away from joining up with Kix Brooks to become the best-selling duo in country-music history, and Eicher was touring and recording with Tulsa-based superstar Roy Clark,

            Finding both their musical tastes and their desire to get off the road and spend more time at home compatible, the two began successfully seeking out duet gigs in and around Tulsa. One of their longer-running jobs has been at Tulsa’s Full Moon Café, where they’ve held down the stage on Sundays and Wednesdays for years. Along the way, they’ve been responsible for boosting the careers of singers Mary Cogan and Molly Colvard by having them in on a regular basis.

            Ellicott’s situation, however, is a bit different, as she’s been an established performer in Tulsa since her late teens. As it turns out, she’s very aware of what Bruner and Eicher have been doing in Tulsa venues, and found the prospect of joining forces intriguing.

            “When we contacted Annie during the holidays about doing a jazz show with us at the Full Moon, she eagerly agreed,” says Bruner. “She said she was very excited to get a call from us, and that she’d been a fan of ours since our days at Camerelli’s.” (Before the demise of that Tulsa restaurant in 2007, Bruner and Eicher played a regular Camerelli’s gig that showcased their love of  gypsy jazz.)

            “We wanted her on board, and we wanted to do a jazz project with her,’ Bruner adds. “She told us that while she did sing other kinds of music, jazz was her first love, and she considered herself a jazz singer.”

            That was just fine with Eicher and Bruner, and, not long after that initial contact, Ellicott joined them on stage for their first show as a trio.

            “We began playing together on the first of February at the Full Moon, and we could see that we really wanted to look at something more permanent with her,” says Bruner. “Now, we’re all treating this as a new band, with a different sound. I’m playing all nylon-string guitar, which brings a Brazilian flavor to the ensemble, and Shelby has ample solo space to really stretch out.” 

            Although this is the trio’s first full show at the Jazz Depot, those who attended David Amram’s Tribute to Woody Guthrie on March 11 got a two-song preview of the act,

            “That was a little snippet of what we do,’ Bruner says, “and it was the first time we’d had a chance to show our group down there. It was well-received, and they wanted us back down there on our own date, so here we are.”  

            Mark Bruner, Shelby Eicher, and Annie Ellicott are scheduled to take the stage Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets for the solo concert can be purchased at the Depot or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $10, reserved table seating $20.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            The trio’s performance 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.