Apr 05, 2012 - Cole Porter Review


    As would be the case with anyone who’s spent most of his life as a professional jazz musician, pianist-bandleader Chuck Gardner – who settled in Tulsa with his vocalist wife Sandy some years ago -- has more than a passing acquaintance with the music of Cole Porter. Since he’s long been a mainstay on the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame stage, it’s also natural for Gardner to have been involved in their Cole Porter shows along the way.
    And the Jazz Hall, he says, has put on a lot of Cole Porter shows.  

  “Oh, yeah. Some of them have been smaller concerts, and some have been extravaganzas with casts of thousands,” He laughs. “One of those we did, back when the Jazz Hall was on Greenwood [Avenue], had, gosh, around 35-40 songs in it, with a cast that was a mixture of pros and amateurs. It must’ve been about a three-hour production.”
    Sunday’s event, however, will     be pretty much the antithesis of that one.
“We’re going to move fast, clip it right along,” explains Gardner, who’s the show’s producer. “We’re doing it with four singers – all pros – and 15 or 20 tunes. It won’t be a long show, but we’ll have a lot of the main songs people associate with Cole Porter.”
    Singers Pam Van Dyke Crosby, Sandy Gardner, Angie Cockrell, and Jeff Shadley – who’ll also play some trumpet -- will join keyboardist Gardner, drummer Anthony Yohe, and bassist Bill Crosby for the concert. Again, all are longtime professionals.
    “Cole Porter songs are not easy songs to sing,” Gardner says. “He had a way of writing that was rather involved, and that can be challenging for singers. When you have pros singing like we do, though, you can have special arrangements on all the songs.”
    Some of the tunes, he adds, will be what he calls “specialty numbers,” versions of the songs given unique, individualized treatments by the artists and musicians involved. One of those is “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” sung in the concert by Sandy Gardner.     “It’s a beautiful ballad, Sandy sings it her own way, and the [piano] harmonies I’m using for it are harmonies that [jazz great] Bill Evans came up with some time ago,” he says
    One of Gardner’s tasks as producer was coming up with the show’s repertoire. As things turned out, that wasn’t much of a task.
    “I just asked the singers what they wanted to do, and they all came up with their lists,” he says. “There was some duplication, not a lot, and they certainly weren’t at each other’s throats about it. After the vocalists had picked the songs they wanted to do, we took what was left over, and picked out the instrumentals we’ll play. Of course, we’ve done most of those before -- `It’s All Right With Me,’ `Just One of Those Things,’ `I Love You.’ ”
    A single duet vocal is scheduled for the show:  “True Love,” which will be performed by Sandy and Pam.
    “They’ve done that before and brought the house down,” Gardner notes.
    Although the material for the female singers and the instrumental trio performances are now set, there’s a bit of a wild card in the deck with Shadley, a Jazz Hall favorite.
    “With Jeff, he shows up and we do what he has,” says Gardner with a chuckle. “I got an email from him that said, `I love working with you guys. Can I play trumpet?’ So we’ll be prepared for him when he gets here.”
    Taken as a whole, Gardner adds, the evening will offer audiences exactly the kind of experience they’re looking for with a Porter show.
    “We’re not doing any Cole Porter that people don’t know. Everything we’re doing, somebody will know the title if they know anything about Cole Porter. So all the audience should be familiar with all the songs.
    He chuckles again. “Of course, I’m talking about people of a certain age when I say `all.’ There may be some people out there under 40 or so who don’t know much of anything about Cole Porter.”
    The Cole Porter Revue is set to begin Sunday at 5 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 $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.
    The Cole Porter Revue 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.