Sep 30, 2012 - Leon Rollerson Presents A Show For All Ages


         There’s going to be a remarkable range of performers taking the stage Sunday at the Jazz Depot. Young, seasoned, and in-between, instrumentalist or vocalist – and often both – they’re connected by their relationship to the man who’ll be running the show.

            As the longtime Tulsa performer and producer Leon Rollerson puts it, “These are all people I have a history with.”

            For some, the history isn’t very long, but that’s simply because the artists aren’t very old. In that category, for instance, are singer-guitarist Ashlie Burch (age 14), rapper-vocalist Aaron Jackson (13), and Muskogee-based jazz singer Chelsey Kimdle (14).

            “I’m going to have them play in the gallery, and later on come up and join us on a tune,” Rollerson says. “One thing we’re always going to do is include the youth.”

            On the other end of the spectrum are such well-known veteran musicians – and Rollerson associates -- as trumpeter Mike Moore, drummer Edward “Spike” Gore, guitarists Lacy Baker and Mark Furnas, pianists Kenny Quinn and John Hamill, pianist-vocalist Joe Wilkinson, and keyboardist, harmonica player and guitarist Rudy Scott.

            “I probably shouldn’t say this, because it makes us seem old, but Rudy and I were playing together in Ernie Fields’ band back in 1960, when I was still in high school,” says Rollerson. “I’ve been working with Mike for about 25 years, and Spike for 20.  John Hamill and I go ‘way back, when we were doing TV and radio together. Mark’s been with me for almost 40 years now, and Lacy’s been with me for about the same amount of time. He’s an internationally known guitarist from Oklahoma City, and his son, Lacy Jr., is an up-and-coming keyboardist who’s absolutely tremendous. He’ll be with us on Sunday, too.”

            In addition to Lacy Baker Jr., other noteworthy performers on the bill include Victoria Ellington (“an all-star singer who can sing all types of music and is also a drummer”), trombonist Jeff Roberson (“a master music instructor who also plays trumpet, guitar, and piano”), and saxophonists Jama Moore and Myron Oliver, the latter a local favorite who recently headlined his own Jazz Depot concert.

            Add to that lineup vocalists Starr Winans, Tara Smith and Rebecca DeVille, with drummer Julius Henderson, and it’s pretty evident that there’ll be an abundance of talent for the two-hour presentation.

            “The stage is always going to be full,” notes Rollerson. “I’ll be bringing people on and off all the way through, and I’m going to have to be very judicious about what I do.  We’ve got more music and musicians than we’ve got time. But I’m a maestro. It’s not my first rodeo. We’ll get started on time and we’ll end on time.”

            In addition to producing the show, Rollerson will be its focal point, playing bass and keyboards and singing. His performing and production credits both go back several decades, with Leon Rollerson Productions one of the longest-lived entertainment companies in Tulsa.

            As a musician, he’s not only fronted his own group but also played with such notables as Clark Terry, Jay McShann, and the abovementioned Ernie Fields, the Tulsa-based bandleader who scored a major hit single in 1959 with his version of the big-band standard “In the Mood.”  Like Rudy Scott, who’ll be sharing the Sunday stage, Rollerson has been inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame.

            However, Rollerson says, the only blues they’re playing Sunday are the jazzy kind.

            “What we’ll be doing on this show is different types of jazz,” he explains. “We’ll do some classic jazz -- `Misty,’ that sort of thing – for those who love to hear that style. Then we’ll do other kinds of jazz. There’ll be some modern jazz, some blues-jazz, and some funky jazz, like Quincy Jones and those cats are doing these days.  So it’ll be the standards all the way up to funky jazz.

            “It’s an all-star band,’ he adds, “and we’re going to take the audience on a magic-carpet ride through all of these things.”

            Leon Rollerson is set to take the stage Sunday, Sept. 30, 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.

            The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2012 Autumn 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.