Apr 22, 2012 - Jazz Depot Composers Series

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Pianist and composer Tim Shadley is the younger brother of Jeff Shadley, the veteran Tulsa trumpeter and vocalist.

And, no, he doesn’t mind being referred to that way.

“When we go out and play gigs together, that’s how I’m best known,” Shadley says with a chuckle. “But that’s okay. Jeff’s such a fantastic musician, and he’s opened a lot of doors for me – like the one to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.”

It’s there that the younger Shadley has begun coordinating a new jazz composer series, featuring musicians playing their own compositions. Last month, saxophonist Mike Cameron was the featured artist. This month, it’s vibraphonist Jay Garrett, a Tennessee native who’s now playing and teaching in the Tulsa area.

“I went to school with Jay at North Texas State University; we were in some jazz classes together,” says Shadley. “He’s a fantastic vibraphone player, and a multi-instrumentalist who also sings. Since he’s been in town, we’ve played a few gigs together, and he’s really embraced the Tulsa music scene.”

That scene, Shadley adds, is full of jazz musicians who create their own compositions, but don’t have a lot of places to play them.

“There aren’t a lot of restaurants out there that say, `Yeah, we’d like to bring in some original composers and have them play their songs,’” he says. “Sometimes original songs can be easy to listen to, but other times they can be more intellectually challenging. “Tulsa has a large jazz community, and in that community there are a lot of guys around, writing their ideas down on scraps of paper, who need a platform for what they’re doing. The Jazz Hall of Fame has been really good to us, keeping the lights on at night and giving us that platform.”

Although there’s only been one previous installment of this new monthly series – “We’re doing it one Wednesday night, toward the end of every month,’ Shadley explains -- the turnout for the first one, featuring saxophonist Cameron, exceeded his expectations.

“I would’ve been happy with 15 people and about 35 showed up, which was great,” he says. “There were a lot of musicians there from around town, several college musicians, but these nights aren’t just for musicians. They’re for anyone who appreciates jazz – which can take many different forms, from that wild funk music that came along in the‘70s to Latin American stuff. In fact, I’ve got a salsa group I write music for, and I plan on taking it there sometime in the future.”

Each evening of the jazz composer series begins with the featured artist performing several of his or her own compositions, with a break that’s then followed by a jam session.

“I ask them to have at least four or five songs, but they can take up to an hour or an hour and a half if they’ve got that much material,” says Shadley. “During the break, people can talk to the artist and ask questions, and then we open it up for the jam session. If you’re a musician like me, and you sit and watch and listen to another musician, it makes you want to get in there and play. So whoever wants to sit in can bring a horn along and enjoy jamming.”

The same goes for jazz composers. The Oklahoma Hall of Fame is always looking for musicians to showcase in future installments of the series.

“There are a lot of guys around town who have been writing music for a long time, and I think people would be very interested in hearing what they’ve got, I know a lot of the younger people, some of the movers and shakers around town, and they can get people through the door. But we’d like to have some of the older guys in as well. This is here for musicians and music lovers alike to participate and enjoy.

“Highlighting incredible talent such as Jay Garrett here at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is our goal and central to our mission, which is to espouse jazz and its creativity and to keep it going forward,” says Jason McIntosh, CEO of the Hall of Fame. “We’re very fortunate to have the talent and creativity of musicians like Tim Shadley involved at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Oklahoma is a musical crossroads and everyone who walks through the door at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame witnesses this beauty and the inspiration that is unique to our Oklahoma musicians.”

The April Jazz Composer showcase is set to begin Wednesday April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. There’s no charge for the event, but, says Shadley, “there’ll be a tip jar, and tipping is encouraged. “

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.