Oklahoma Baptist University

Bison Jazz Orchestra Plays Live at Ritz Theater April 27

OBU’s Bison Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Kevin Pruiett, will perform its final concert of the academic year Friday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Ritz Theater in downtown Shawnee. Pruiett serves as associate professor of music at OBU.

This year’s concert will once again serve as a fundraiser for the theater. Admission is $3 per person, and tickets will be sold at the door.

“We are excited to once again be playing at the Ritz,” Pruiett said. “As always, we are hoping for a good turnout so that we can raise some much needed funds for a special part of the Shawnee community.”

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 the theatre for use as a performance venue.

This year’s Bison Jazz Orchestra concert will showcase a wide selection of big band music ranging from the music of Duke Ellington to more modern pieces written by 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, on a number of arrangements made famous by Frank Sinatra. Among these songs are Johnny Mandel’s arrangement of “Let’s Fall in Love,” Quincy Jones’ “The Best Is Yet to Come,” and Nelson Riddle’s “Nice ‘n Easy.”

“It is a great privilege to perform arrangements out of the Sinatra songbook,” Clifford said. “He was such an iconic figure in popular music, and performing his arrangements has been a great learning experience.”

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 “As It Is” and Horace Silver’s “The Jody Grind.”

Lead alto saxophonist, Tabitha Gordon, a junior from Burleson, Texas, will be featured on an arrangement of the jazz standard “I Thought About You.”

“The subtlety of this arrangement creates quite a challenge,” Gordon said. “While playing at the softest dynamic levels possible, we are required to keep the intensity of the swing at a very high level. I am sure that the audience is really going to enjoy it.”

The evening also will showcase soloists Fernando Castro, a senior from Vila Velha, Brazil; Randy Goodnight, a high school senior from Bethel, Okla.; Mason Phillips, a junior from Yukon, Okla.; and Mark Soulsby, a junior from Burley, Idaho.

George Toumayan, adjunct professor of percussion, also will be featured on a unique piece arranged by Pruiett. “The Flu” by the band Lettuce will showcase Toumayan’s skill on the drum set as well as add variety to the overall program.

“The audience will have the opportunity to hear an amazing drummer,” Pruiett said. “His performance with the BJO takes the ensemble to a different level, and it is a pleasure to work with him.”

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 OBU 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 e-mail to music@okbu.edu.

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