Nov 29, 2012 - George & Ira Gershwin Song Book Begins Winter Concert Series


            With the Yuletide season just about upon us, producer Scott McQuade – last seen at the Jazz Depot playing piano with Steve Ham’s Jambalaya Jass Band -- decided it might be a good idea to do a little tweaking to his George & Ira Gershwin Jazz Depot show. So those who attend Sunday evening’s concert can expect not only a nice helping of Gershwin tunes, but also a few seasonal favorites written by people not named George or Ira.

            “It’ll still be about two-thirds Gershwin, but I decided to pepper in a little holiday music as well,” he explains. “It’ll be stuff like `Deck the Halls,’ mostly traditional songs that people know, but I’ll put my own twist on them. So it’ll be traditional music with a twist.”

            A fixture on the area jazz scene, pianist McQuade will be joined by other well-known musical personalities, including trumpeter-vocalist Jeff Shadley and Tavis Minner

            “I’ll also have this new trombonist in town who’s really good – he’s a North Texas grad who’s been working cruise ships,” McQuade says. “He’s Polish, and his last name is just about impossible to pronounce – it’s Dawidzionek -- so people just call him Daniel D.

            “That’s all of us,” he adds. “It’ll be a series of duets, and I plan to do some solo stuff, too.”

            McQuade knows very well that he’s got a wealth of material to choose from. Composer George Gershwin and his younger brother, Ira, were responsible for dozens of evergreens, many of which originated on the Broadway stage. Although their first musical hit as a team, Lady, Be Good, came along in 1924, both had worked with other collaborators before that. George, in fact, had been working in the New York musical hotbed known as Tin Pan Alley since the age of 18. It took Ira a little longer to get into the business, entering the theatre world via his lyrics for a 1921 musical called Two Little Girls in Blue.

            After Lady, Be Good, the brothers’ partnership continued until George’s death from a brain tumor in 1937, with Ira going on to work successfully with other composers for many more years. He was 86 at the time of his death in 1983.

            According to John S. Wilson, writing in the 1973 book The Gershwins, “In appearance, work habits, living habits, outlook, interests – run down any list – they were opposites. George – open, exuberant, a party-goer, loving the spotlight, an irrepressible performer, restless and physically active. Ira – withdrawn, shy, a meditator, slow-moving, an underplayer. And yet they functioned together with the smoothness of a beautifully tooled piece of machinery.

            “Almost everything that one was, the other wasn’t,” he added. “And yet the various pluses and minuses of these two very distinct and individually creative men were so complementary, fitting together as snugly as the parts of a cleanly cut jigsaw puzzle that, together, they formed a remarkably complete whole.”

            Their first Broadway collaboration yielded not only the title track but also “Fascinating Rhythm,” another American standard. Other Gershwin classics from theater and the movies include “Someone to Watch over Me,” “Embraceable You,” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”  And those just begin to scratch the surface of the brothers’ remarkable output.

            “For sure, we’re going to do `Summertime’ and “The Man I Love,’ and Shadley and I will do `I Got Rhythm,’”says McQuade. “`I Got Rhythm,’ you know, is kind of a staple for the jazz guys. People like Charlie Parker and Lester Young have taken the chord changes in `I Got Rhythm’ and written a lot of different melodies over them.”

            And like those jazz greats, McQuade finds that a Gershwin tune makes a fine vehicle for musical exploration, something he plans to do plenty of on Sunday evening.

            “I’ve always liked those melodies,” he says. “They give you opportunities to take liberties, and they’re just so beautiful that you can’t help putting your own spin on them.”  

            The George & Ira Gershwin Song Book show, produced by Scott McQuade, is set to begin Sunday, Dec. 2 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.

            It’s the first show in the Jazz Hall’s 2012-13 Winter 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.

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