Those who love live jazz have heard Tommy Poole play saxophone locally, usually in tandem with other top-drawer musicians on a national and international level.
Poole is also a renown composer, but Sunday’s Jazz Depot show he’s Dr. Tommy Poole, the director of jazz studies and assistant professor of music at Northeastern State University, bringing his 18-person NSU Jazz Ensemble to town.
“I’ve got a lot of great soloists in the ensemble, and I don’t want to take any spotlight time away from them,” he says, by way of explaining why he won’t be playing sax on the show. “I also want people to know that Dave Pietro is one of the great alto players of our time as well as a dynamic performer. He’s very exciting to watch as well as to listen to. After hearing him with Maria Schneider’s group, I listened to his own small-group CDs, and I thought, `Wow. This is a fantastic player.’ ”
Like Poole, the New York-based Pietro is a multifaceted performer as well as an instructor – currently fulfilling the latter role as music professor of jazz studies at New York University. A member of the Grammy-winning Maria Schneider Orchestra as well as the Gil Evans Project, Pietro played lead alto saxophone with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra from 1994 to 2003, recording six CDs with that group. He’s also toured and/or recorded with a long list of internationally known acts, including Blood, Sweat & Tears; Louis Bellson; the bands of Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton; the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra; Ray Charles; and Harry Connick Jr.
Pietro has recorded another six CDs with his own bands. Those discs include 1999’s Now Becoming Then, called “a rich feast for listeners” by the Jazz Times’ Bill Bennett; The Chakra Suite, named one of the top CDs of 2008 by All About Jazz; and 2001’s Standard Wonder: The Music of Stevie Wonder.
“Sunday, we’ll do one of the songs off Standard Wonder, and a couple of Dave Pietro’s own compositions, which are very challenging and very interesting. We’ve been working on his music for almost a month now.”
For Sunday’s show, Poole adds, “We’re going to open up with some Count Basie. I like to open concerts with Basie, especially at the Jazz Depot, because of how much they love Basie over there. We’ll do a couple of Dave Pietro’s compositions, and then `Night in Tunisa,’ the Dizzy Gillespie classic. After a short break, we’ll come back and do the one off Standard Wonder.
“It’s really going to be a great concert. Dave Pietro is going to be soloing all through the night, and so are my great student soloists.”
That group includes pianist Hiroki Ohsawa, who’s already begun to make a name for himself in the area. “I was on a gig last night at the Cellar Dweller [a Tulsa nightspot], and the guys I was playing with were saying, `Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about that kid,'” Poole says. “He’s incredible. And Joseph Barger, whose played in some past concerts at the Jazz Depot, is a great tenor player. He was just voted Collegiate Jazz Musician of the Year by OKJE, the Oklahoma Jazz Educators Association.”
In addition, Jazz Depot patrons can expect to hear solos from trumpeter Austin Stunkard, baritone saxophonist Kaleb Baquera, and a young trumpeter from Colombia named Cristian Lopez, who’s new to the NSU program.
“This is one of the stronger bands I’ve ever had,” notes Poole. It’s a really, really strong band this year.”
“It’s always a pleasure working with Dr. Poole and the NSU Jazz Ensemble,” says Jason McIntosh, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO. “Dr. Poole is a leader in music education, known for developing NSU’s jazz program through energizing young musicians so they can fully reach their potential. ”
For more information on NSU jazz events, visit www.nsujazzlab.com.
Dave Pietro and the NSU Jazz Ensemble are set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, November 2, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street.
Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-928-JAZZ. 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.