Jul 18, 2012 - Saxman Myron Oliver Headlines First Sunday Show


Just a few days ago Jazz Saxophonist Myron Oliver won $500 and studio recording time in a long-running event billed as the Ultimate Karaoke Competition at Tulsa’s Blue Rose Café.

It may surprise area jazz fans to know that Oliver won it not for his skills as a saxophone player – but as a rapper.

“It was a big karaoke contest that had been going on for weeks, and it ended with one girl and one guy winner,” he explains. “I was the guy who won. I did pretty much old-school rap, Snoop Dogg and guys like that. I don’t know anything about new rap.”

He knew enough about classic rap, however, to take the top honor.  And one of the judges who helped get him there was Rockwell Ryan Ripperger, the internationally known Tulsa-based artist behind the group Stephen Speaks.

“I’m sure he thought I was a rapper, but I’m not a rapper – I’m a sax player,” says Oliver with a laugh. “I went to his show at the Blue Rose and asked if I could sit in. He probably thought I’d play one song and be okay, and that’d be it. So I played sax on a song, and he kept me up there with him the rest of the night.”

That’s exactly the kind of response Oliver and his saxophone have been getting from musicians and fans alike since he arrived in Tulsa a few years ago as maintenance foreman for the Union Pacific Railroad. A graduate of Overton High School in Memphis, Tenn., a performing arts school, he showed early promise on the instrument. But after graduation, he walked away from playing.           

“I got married, had a daughter, I was working two jobs, and I just didn’t have the motivation – or the time,” he says.

It was a decade before he picked up his horn again. Then, in Tulsa, he began playing the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Tuesday jam sessions at the Jazz Depot, where he soon gained not only a substantial following but also recognition from Tulsa’s musical community.

“I started getting out locally and sitting in with a lot of different people, and even though they didn’t know me, they gave me a chance,” he says. “Tulsa is a network of friends. You meet someone, and you have a friend. I can go somewhere that had a band playing, and if someone there says, `Myron plays sax,’ I’ll be asked to sit in.

“That’s the thing about the Tulsa music scene,” he adds. “It’s open, it’s welcoming, and the musicians aren’t out to pull you down. They’ll encourage and help you.”

For Sunday’s show, he’ll be supported on stage by several of the Tulsans who’ve given him a boost during his rapid rise on the scene. 

“Leon Rollerson, who’s an Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame bass player, is sitting in with my band to help me out,” he says. “So is Rudy Scott, who’s such a great harmonica and keyboard player, and also a member of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. I know them both just because of the friendly network of people I’ve met through the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.”

“Everyone who plays with Myron, ends a gig with a new friend. Musicians enjoy playing with him and audiences enjoy hearing him. He has a quite charisma that captures your attention,” CEO of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Jason McIntosh said of Myron.   

He expects, among others, Ripperger and the well-known Tulsa pianist Brian Lee to make appearances during the show.

Those attending Sunday’s event will also see and hear Oliver playing an instrument he says isn’t all that prevalent these days.

“I love playing soprano sax,” he says, “and you hear so little of it in mainstream music. People think it’s kind of light and airy, like Kenny G.’s music – not that I'm saying anything bad about Kenny G. We’re covering his version of `Summertime’ in the show.”

The Jazz Depot concert on Sunday marks Oliver’s first-ever appearance as a headliner, a fact that, so far, he’s taking in stride. “I’m not nervous right now, because I’m kind of still on the high of winning the karaoke contest,” he says with a chuckle. “But as I get a little closer to going on, there’ll probably be a few jitters.”

Oliver 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 event 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 show is part of the Jazz Hall’s 2012 Summer 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.