Dec 07, 2012 - Brave Combo Brings Holiday Show to Jazz Depot

Brave Combo Brings Holiday Show to Jazz Depot December 13                                              

            In its well over two decades as a working band, Brave Combo has, for starters, won Grammys, appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, played the wedding reception for the Talking Heads’ David Byrne, and recorded a disc with the late Tiny Tim. Recently, the group’s also done several well-received appearances with Drew Carey at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, in addition to its usual touring and recording schedule.

            Brave Combo founder Carl Finch has been there for all of it. And he says it’s going to be tough to beat something that happened a couple of years ago, at just about this time of the year.

            “Remember when Bob Dylan put out his Christmas album?” he asks. “The main song from that album, and the only song they did a video for, was `Must be Santa’ – and it was our arrangement.

            “He used to play us on his radio show on Sirius. He was a fan. And sure enough, man, his arrangement is absolutely note for note exactly like ours.  He’s mentioned it in some interviews, which I thought was pretty good.

            “What I really love is that he covered us before we covered him,”Finch adds. “We’ve since learned one of his songs, but not before he did a tribute to us. So there are a few little things like that, things that make me go, `Wow. That’s unique.’”

            Brave Combo’s fans have been saying the same sort of thing since the late ‘70s, when the group burst out of Texas playing, as Finch puts it, “polka music with a rock aesthetic.”

            From the very beginning, he says, Tulsa audiences accepted the group with open arms.

            “We used to play this punk club called the Crystal Pistol – and even before that, a place downtown called the Blue Grotto,” he recalled. “In those days, a lot of the young upstart promoters around Tulsa were doing punk shows, and we fit that scene. Because we were so unconventional, we were embraced by a lot of the local punk movement, wherever we would go. Sometimes, the only clubs we could play, the only people who would hire us, were punk promoters. So we wound up playing a lot of the coolest rooms ever, and Tulsa was always so accepting.”

            As Brave Combo has gone along, the band has added other world-music genres to its polka-oriented repertoire, including salsa, meringue, cumbia, conjunto, and zydeco. Those who attend the Jazz Depot show can expect to hear at least a little bit of all those styles -- most of them applied to holiday music.

            “In the last two years, we’ve been pushing a live album that’s done really well. It’s called Christmas Present, and it’s the one we got all the push on from Bob Dylan,” says Finch.  “We can do an entire night of just holiday stuff that most of the people will recognize – traditional Christmas songs. We do “We Three Kings Cha-Cha–Cha” and “”Must be Santa” as a polka, “O Christmas Tree” as a samba and `Feliz Navidad’ as a Latin cumbia. We also play some waltzes. I mean, `Silver Bells’ is a waltz, so that’s not much of a stretch.”

            Brave Combo’s affiliation with holiday music, he adds, started in an unlikely place.

            “In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, we made several trips to Japan, and one of the record companies there asked us if we’d be interested in doing a Christmas album and then coming back the following year and touring Japan, to support the album,” he recalls. “We said, `Man, we didn’t even know that there were Japanese Christmas songs.’ And there aren’t.” He laughs. “They were just really into American Christmas music. It’s a huge holiday there. No Jesus – all Santa and Disney characters. But it’s huge.”

            That invitation, and the subsequent disc and tour, started the band on its exploration of seasonal music. Those in the Jazz Depot crowd on Thursday night can hear some of the results.

            “People will be familiar with the music, but there’ll be a twist, and maybe it’ll be somewhat irreverent,” he says. “People should show up with an open mind. I mean, we do a striptease, bump-and-grind version of `Winter Wonderland.’ It works really well. You’d be shocked at how adaptable this stuff is.

            “We’re just like mad scientists in a laboratory,” he concludes. “We get to do this. We’re actually paid for this. So let’s do some goofy stuff.”

            Brave Combo is scheduled to take the stage Thursday at 7 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. Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            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.