Bison Jazz Orchestra Plays Live at Ritz Theater April 29

OBU’s Bison Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Kevin Pruiett, associate professor of music, will perform its final concert of the 2010-11 academic year on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Ritz Theater in downtown Shawnee.

This year’s concert will serve as a fundraiser for the theater. Tickets will be sold at the door and will be $2.

“We have been playing our final concert at the Ritz for quite a few years now, and it only seemed natural to try and help out with its restoration,” Pruiett said. “Hopefully, we will have a good turnout so that we can raise some much needed funds.”

The jazz ensemble includes (front to back) Morganne Garcia, David Bacher, Kade Goforth, Sara Elliott, Kara VanAntwerp, Parker Goforth and (at left) Jonathan Hamrick.

The Ritz Theatre, built around 1899 and originally constructed as a dry goods store, was the oldest and longest-running family-owned/operated movie theater in the state of Oklahoma when it closed in 1988. In recent years, the Society for Revitalization of Downtown Shawnee has opened it up for use as a performance venue.

The concert will showcase a selection of big band music ranging from the music of Duke Ellington to more modern pieces written by Bob Mintzer, Pat Metheny as well as an arrangement of a piece by Radiohead.

The evening will feature student vocalist Karlie Clifford, a sophomore from Oklahoma City, Okla., on a number of songs including Brian Setzer’s “Jumpin’ East of Java” as well as an arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”

“Karlie is continuing the tradition of fine vocalists that we have had in the Bison Jazz Orchestra,” Pruiett said. “She will be performing a wide variety of songs, and I am confident that the audience will really enjoy it.”

Senior tenor saxophonist Spencer Davis, from Pine Bluff, Ark., will be featured on a number of tunes throughout the evening including the wonderful Pat Metheny piece “Minuano (Six Eight)” and Bob Mintzer’s “A Long Time Ago.”

Trumpeter Kade Goforth, a senior from Tulsa, Okla., will be featured on a beautiful ballad by Tom Kubis titled “Hospital Blues.”

“It is always a joy to be a featured soloist, and this piece allows for a lot of freedom and expression,” Goforth said. “It is a refreshing change of pace from the lead trumpet role that I have filled throughout this year.”

Lead alto saxophonist Tabitha Wasik, a sophomore from Burleson, Texas, will be featured on Duke Ellington and Billy Stayhorn’s “SST IX: The Star-Crossed Lovers” a stunningly beautiful take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“This piece gives me the opportunity to play like the sax legend Johnny Hodges,” Wasik said. “It has been challenging, and it has also required me to listen to more of his recordings. Therefore, it has giving me a greater appreciation for this saxophonist whose tone and style can melt any listener.”

The evening also will showcase soloists Fernando Castro, a senior from Vila Velha, Brazil; Jonathan Hamrick, a senior from Cedar Crest, N.M.; Lauren McHaney, a junior from Mansfield, Texas; Mason Phillips, a junior from Yukon, Okla.; and Nick Simmons, a freshman from Weleetka, Okla.

During the concert, the BJO Outstanding Jazz Musician Award will be given to the orchestra member who has “rendered the most outstanding service to the organization during the year.” The award, voted on by the members of the ensemble, is the highest honor given to a jazz musician on the OBU campus.

The Bison Jazz Orchestra, an auditioned 20-piece jazz ensemble, is the premiere jazz ensemble of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts Division of Music at OBU. Under Pruiett’s direction, the Bison Jazz Orchestra performs a wide variety of big band repertoire ranging from music of the swing band era to contemporary big band works.

The ensemble performs regularly across the Oklahoma Baptist University campus and throughout the Shawnee community. Most notably, the BJO is the featured ensemble of the “Night of Jazz” concert series, a production in association with the University Concert Series. In May 2008, the BJO traveled to Vitoria and São Paulo, Brazil, for a nine-day tour, and in May of 2010 traveled to João Pessoa and Natal, Brazil, for a 10-day tour.

The OBU Division of Music offers degrees in performance, musical arts, music education, and a liberal arts degree with emphasis in music. For more information, contact the Division of Music at (405) 878-2305 or via e-mail to