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Mitch’s Reflection: Saying Goodbye to Wayman Tisdale

It is with a heavy heart this morning that I learned that former NBA basketball player and jazz great Wayman Tisdale has died after a long battle with cancer. Ironically, I was playing his latest release “Rebound,” and I was speechless. I have followed Tisdale professionally since 2003 when he performed at the 15th annual Juneteeth Music Festival at the Tulsa Convention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tisdale again in 2005 when he headlined Jazz on Bell Street in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I was nervous about interviewing him that day, but his friendly, jovial spirit set me at ease. It was apparent that he loved jazz and playing the bass guitar. He has been instrumental in acting as a mentor and has collaborated with many jazz notables such as Jonathan Butler, Peter White, Dave Koz, Dallas saxophonist Tom Braxton, Tulsa saxophonists Grady Nichols and Eldredge Jackson.
Tisdale was all about having a good time, and one of the things I will remember most about him is his love for old-school R&B music. In each album release, Tisdale always included a favorite track. For example, he collaborated with Oklahoma country star Toby Keith, who offered an interesting perspective to the Barry White classic tune, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
“I got this call from Toby, and he says, ‘I got the song we need to redo: ‘Never Gonna Give You Up,'” Tisdale said in an interview I had with him last year. “We got to the studio, and Toby started singing. My mouth fell wide-open. We were just blown away. I could not believe what I was hearing! It was great. This guy can sing.”
There’s so much more I could say, but one thing is certain: Tisdale’s contributions both on and off the court will be missed. Rest in peace.

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Grace Kelly releases new album

16-year alto sax prodigy Grace Kelly has released her fifth album, “Mood Changes” on Pax Productions.
Kelly’s star is becoming brighter each day. Kelly, who enjoyed critically acclaimed success on her previous “GRACEFULEE” album, has dominated the DownBeat Student Awards over the past four years. From 2006-09, the saxophonist has garnered 12 student awards, including her latest three for Jazz Soloist, Outstanding Jazz Vocalist, and Pop-Rock Blues Soloist.
“I’m just trying to listen to as much music as possible, which makes it hard for me to put together a CD about just one thing,” Kelly says in explaining her inspiration for “Mood Changes.” “A year before the session, I wrote ‘Tender Madness,’ which is slow and sad, and around the same time, when I was in a good mood, I wrote `Happy Theme Song.’ At that point, I realized that a concept for my next album was taking shape. Two more originals, ‘101’ and ‘But Life Goes On,’ extended the idea, as did the six standards.”
Grace studies saxophone with Lee Konitz, Jerry Bergonzi, and Allan Chase. Grace is the youngest ever to complete the four-year Jazz Studies certificate program at New England Conservatory Prep School. Grace also plays piano, soprano and tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute, and some drums.

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Personal Reflection: No Greater Love

As the rain falls quietly outside today, I am thinking of dear friends who have lost loved ones in the past few months. My prayers are with the families, and as a close friend, I can only imagine the sense of loss they are feeling.
In my efforts to offer a kind, gentle word, this morning I am reminded of God’s mercy and how his faithfulness is new every morning. He feels our pain and is available to carry any burdens we may have – financially, emotionally, physically. John 15:13 says “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” So as a parting thought, I leave this song “No Greater Love” by Grammy-winning gospel Fred Hammond in memory of those who are with God, and to my friends who are celebrating the fact that one day they will meet with them again.

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Kyle Eastwood ready to release “Metropolitain”

Bassist/composer/arranger Kyle Eastwood returns on June 2 with his fourth release, “Metropolitain,” on Mack Avenue Records. Recorded at Studio Ferber in Paris, France and co-produced by Erin Davis (son of Miles Davis) and by Eastwood’s longtime writing partner, Michael Stevens, “Metropolitain” features pianist Eric Legnini, trumpeter Till Brönner, drummer Manu Katché, and special guest, French vocalist Camille.

For jazz fans who are familiar with him, Eastwood grew up in Carmel, California and is the son of actor-director Clint Eastwood. While doing his homework, Kyle remembers listening to records of jazz icons such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Miles Davis. Clint Eastwood had been attending the Monterey Jazz Festival since it began in 1958, and when his children were born, it became an annual family outing.

Kyle’s projects include 1998’s “From Here To There,” 2004’s “Paris Blue,” and 2006’s “Now.” He has also contributed to the scores for six of his father’s films: “The Rookie” (1990), “Mystic River” (2002), “Million Dollar Baby” (2004), “Flags Of Our Fathers” (2006), “Letters From Iwo Jima” (2006), and “Gran Torino” (2008).

This release should be a fun listen.

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Theater Review: Jesus is a “Superstar” in Bartlesville

Broadway in Bartlesville continues its season with rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Bartlesville Community Center, 300 S. Adams Blvd. Starring actor Ted Neeley as Jesus of Nazareth and newcomer James Delisco as Judas Iscariot, the opera centers on the political and interpersonal struggles of Judas Iscariot and Jesus. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is based on the canonical gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, beginning with Jesus and his followers arriving in Jerusalem and ending with the Crucifixion.
Jesus’ disciple (and later traitor) Judas Iscariot is the focus of most of the opera, as he struggles internally regarding his devotion to Jesus and his misgivings about the rising popularity of his ministry and its effect on the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
This is not just an ordinary production; “Jesus Christ Superstar” has a 21st century feel to it. A live orchestra played multi-layered musical arrangements, featuring rock and classical elements.
Neeley, who has worked with notables such as Bo Diddley, Keith Carradine and Meat Loaf, hits the high notes perfectly and precisely during Act One and Two. The self-explanatory storyline ends with the Crucifixion and the orchestral piece, “John 19:41” – “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.”
I think most of the audience thought there was more to the story after Jesus ascended to heaven, but the lights came on, and cast members walked on stage for the final encore. Hearing one audience member say, “Oh, I guess it’s over. We should stand” was an indicator that although the play was good, a flawless finish would not leave those in suspense.
However, it is awesome that Broadway productions do cater to the smaller market. The appreciation for arts in Bartlesville was certainly there.

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Today is Record Store Day

Record Store Day has started for more than 1,000 independent record stores in the U.S. and in 17 countries. Started by Bull Moose vice president Chris Brown of Portland, Ore., this day seems more of a lesson in survival as some businesses have closed due to the economy and rise in Internet downloads and online retailers. According to news reports, about 1,000 indie music retailers have gone out of business since 2003, said Joel Oberstein, president of Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a market research firm based in Studio City, Calif. So if there is an indie merchant is in your area, go by, say hello, and purchase some music. Personal interaction is better than virtual interaction any day. Music, anyone?

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Film Festival to Convene Soon in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the 10th annual BareBones International Independent Film and Music Festival prepares to get under way April 16-26 in Muskogee. The festival is founded by Oscar and ShIronbutterfly Ray, (shown in photo).
Named by one of the top industry magazines, Movie Maker, as one of the nation’s top 25 film festivals, the grassroots effort has grown from a two-day event that showed only 35 films in its first year to an impressive 11-day event that will screen almost 200 movies from around the world. Action, romance, Medieval adventure, sci-fi, horror, Western and drama are just some of the genres that will be represented.
The event will also feature workshops on acting for the camera, screenwriting, selling story ideas to movie producers, moviemaking, movie directing, stunt performing, special effects makeup, live screenplay readings, musical performances and the first ever Stars, Cars and Guitars Parade.
The closing day of the festival will feature an Academy Awards-style ceremony with red carpet, paparazzi, and live musical and dance performances along with awards presentations for best movie, best actors and best screenplays.
The not-for-profit event is open to the public and tickets can be purchased online or call (918) 616-1335.

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A Little Bit of Soul Food and Music

Oklahoma City’s popular 411 Band will close out Black Liberated Art Center Inc.’s (BLAC) Soul Food Dinner Theater series on Friday, April 24, 2009. 411 Band leader John Ford said, “We have played many times for BLAC, Inc., at the Charlie Christian International Music Festival and during the Presidential Inaugural Ball, but this time will be very special. We will mix it up with Old School, a little Jazz and, definitely, some blues.” The band has also performed at various Oklahoma tribal casinos. Along with the music, there is an “all you can eat” Soul Food buffet. Dinner is at 7:00 p.m., and the show starts at 8:00 p.m. on 34th floor at the Petroleum Club in downtown Oklahoma City. Tickets are $45 each. For more information, call BLAC Inc. at (405) 524-3800. This evening of entertainment is partially sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council.