UNIVERSITY OF TULSA JAZZ COMBO TAKES JAZZ DEPOT STAGE NOV. 11                                                                                


            Drummer and percussionist George Toumayan is no stranger to the Jazz Depot stage, playing there, with, among others, the internationally known jazz guitarist from Tulsa, Pat Kelley. In addition to backing Kelley in two separate concerts, Toumayan also played percussion behind the legendary Aretha Franklin, when the Queen of Soul appeared at the Council Road Casino in Newkirk a year ago.

            “I still like to talk about that one,” he says with a chuckle.

            Sunday, however, Toumayan is only going to make what amounts to a cameo appearance, taking the stage just to turn it over to the seven-man University of Tulsa Jazz Combo.

            “I’ll introduce them, and that’s all I’ll do,” he says. “They’re great cats, and they’ll run the show after that. They know their tempos. They know when to stop. They have it down. I program the music, and they go.”

            Several of the band members are also no strangers to the Jazz Depot spotlight, having performed with the TU ensemble there as a part of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s 2012 Spring Concert Series.

            “Our piano player, bass player, and guitar player are new,” Toumayan points out. “The rest played at the Jazz Hall in April. And our drummer, Nicholas Foster, has played there quite a bit.”

            In addition to Foster, the TU Jazz Combo lineup includes T.J. Smith on trombone, Bobby Kitchen on alto saxophone, Brian Gault on tenor sax, Benjamin Krumwiede on piano, Paul Humphrey on guitar, and Craig DeLammermore on bass.

            “We’ve got a nice, full, rhythm section, in addition to the trombone and saxophones,” notes Toumayan.

            All seven of the combo members are students at the University of Tulsa, where Toumayan teaches jazz drum set in the jazz studies program, which is directed by musician and professor Vernon Howard.

            “What `jazz drum set’ means is that I teach students at the university on an actual drum setup, like you’d have in a band,” he explains. “If they sit down at the drum set, then they’re my kids.” 

            Although he’s put in a few years in at that position, his tutelage of the TU Jazz Combo is much more recent. The current semester is only Toumayan’s second as Jazz Combo instructor.

            “Basically, what happed was that the position became available, and Vernon Howard asked me if I’d be interested in it,” says Toumayan. “I said, `Sure. Yes. I’d love to teach this combo.’ And I have to say that it’s been a real joy working with this lineup. They’ve made it easy for me in a lot of ways.”

            On Sunday, he adds, “They’re going to do a nice set, about 45 minutes, then an intermission and another 30 or 40 minutes. The students have five originals, which we’re going to mix in with standard jazz charts for tunes like [Wayne Shorter’s] `Footprints,’ [Oliver Nelson’s] `Stolen Moments,’ and [Thelonious Monk’s] `Straight, No Chaser.’ Mostly, the program will consist of a standard, followed by an original composition, followed by a standard, followed by an original composition. So it’ll all be mixed together.”

            As both jazz instructor and musician, Toumayan is in a position to evaluate the current state of Tulsa-area jazz music, and he is positive about what he sees at The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, TU and across the state.

            “One of the great things is the Depot Jams every Tuesday night at the Jazz Hall. Lots of cats go there and play and develop their music. The Jazz Hall is a good place to do that.

            “We definitely have our share of wonderful players here,” he adds. “It’s a good place for a jazz musician to be.”

            The University of Tulsa Jazz Combo is set to begin Sunday, Nov. 11 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.