Aug 20, 2012 - Eicher Family Debut New CD at Jazz Depot

If you need to put the Eichers in a category, says Shelby Eicher, there are a few that would fit. “’Acoustic’ would be one, `instrumental’ would be another, and ‘jazz’ would be the third one,” he notes. “This band has one foot squarely placed in the world of jazz.”

            That’s also true when it comes to the group’s new disc, Dance of the Gypsies, which the Eichers plan to debut at Sunday’s Jazz Depot event. Fiddler Shelby and his sons Isaac (mandolin), Paul (guitar), and Nathan Eicher (bass) are set to perform their songs from the all-original-music disc, along with several other numbers. The second part of the show features well-known vocalist Janet Rutland – Shelby’s wife and the boys’ mother – accompanied by pianist Spencer Sutton.

            According to Shelby, “There’s a gypsy thread that kind of ties the whole CD together,” which helps explain the title he chose for the disc. However, he adds, “There’s not anything on it I’d actually call gypsy jazz. About half of it is Latin – we have a rumba, a samba, a bossa nova, a calypso tune. There’s a Brazilian choro that Isaac wrote when he was studying in Mexico. Choro is an ethnic music of Brazil, kind of like western swing here. In the ‘50s, RCA put out a lot of albums of choro music.

            “We also have a French musette, which is usually a fast waltz. Because of Django Reinhardt, a lot of French music has a gypsy-jazz undercurrent, and that’s the vibe of this tune. It feels like you’re walking out of Paris into a gypsy camp.

            “It’s weird,” he concludes. “The CD takes so many different influences, but I think it’s cohesive as well.”

            In addition to the songs from Dance of the Gypsies, Sunday’s show will likely include a selection from Shelby’s recent solo album Fiddle Tunes, along with a western-swing number or two, reflecting his current work with the all-star band the Tulsa Playboys. “I’ve got some new things I’ve written in the past year or year and a half, too,” he says, “mostly in a straight-ahead ‘30s jazz style. I’ll probably include some of those.”

            With the exception of Isaac’s composition, Shelby wrote all of the cuts on the new disc, accumulating them over a period of nearly three decades.

            “I actually started crafting tunes in the mid-‘70s,” he recalls, “and some of the ones on this CD go back to 1984 or ’85. I always have a little pile of tunes that I haven’t done anything with, and I really wanted to do something with this material. My kids play so well that it just worked out.”

            Indeed, the musicianship on Dance of the Gypsies has already impressed one big-name artist. Roy Clark, with whom Shelby toured and recorded for many years, told Shelby, “This is one hot mess of pickin’.” The quote is included on the packaging for the disc.

            And indeed, there’ll be plenty of pickin’ when the Eichers take the stage.

            “Our part of the show will be mostly instrumental,’ Shelby says. “Then, in the second half, Janet is going to sing.”

            With a long history of successful stage performances, including the lead role in Always, Patsy Cline and many cabaret shows at the Performing Arts Center Trust’s SummerStage festival, Janet Rutland can draw from a vast musical repertoire for her part of the evening. She says that she and Spencer Sutton plan to present “mostly jazz standards – maybe with a Patsy number or two.”

            “I know I’ll do `Come Rain or Come Shine,’ `One for My Baby’ – we’ll be heavy on Johnny Mercer tunes,” she adds. “Spencer did the Mercer show with me at SummerStage back in 2009, the centennial of Mercer’s birth. So we know a lot of Mercer tunes. “

            However, she feels that her and Sutton’s part of the proceedings is ultimately of secondary importance.  “Really,’ she says, “the emphasis of the show is on how cool it is that Shelby and the boys are playing together, and to help the get the word out about their new CD.”

            The Eichers concert begins 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, as will copies of the new Eichers disc, Dance of the Gypsies.

            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. It exists to provide a system in and for the State of Oklahoma to preserve, promote and illuminate the true art forms of jazz, blues and gospel music; also identify, document and honor the artists who have made a significant contribution locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to its development. Additionally, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame promotes educational learning, training, classes, performances and cultural events with and on behalf of disadvantaged youth of all races, creeds, religions and ethnic heritage and provides scholarships to  students. We celebrate the music of America.