The Sooner Theatre is one of 50 venues nationwide selected to host the Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary Tour.
Tonight's 8 p.m. performance is the only tour stop within a five-state region for the prestigious jazz septet The Blue Note 7. The show features an all-star lineup of jazz musicians led by music director and pianist Bill Charlap. The band also includes Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Steve Wilson on alto saxophone, Peter Washington on bass and drummer Lewis Nash.
Blue Note Records was launched in 1939 by two jazz-loving German immigrants, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, who had been friends since childhood and fled to America to escape the Nazi regime. They were aided by Rudy Van Gelder, a New Jersey optometrist moonlighting as a recording engineer, and Reid Miles, a classical music-loving commercial designer. Over the next 30 years, the pair accumulated a roster of talent that reads like a who's-who of jazz greats: Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green Lee Morgan, among many others.
"Many of the most important recorded documents of jazz history are found within the Blue Note catalog," said Charlap. "The musicians, the compositions, the recorded sound and the design are all part of our permanent cultural landscape."
In addition to its continuing support of some of the most prominent Jazz musicians, Blue Note has spent the past 25 years diversifying its roster to include different genres of music. Commercial successes have come with artists like Bobby McFerrin, Norah Jones, Al Green, Anita Baker, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis.
To commemorate the 70-year legacy of the label, The Blue Note 7 came together under the direction of Charlap to record "Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records," which pays tribute to some of the label's classic compositions.
"The members of this band are among the finest improvisers in jazz today," Charlap said. "Each one has a distinctive musical voice encompassing the past, present and the future of the art form."
Choosing only eight songs for the album presented a unique challenge for the group.
"Because the Blue Note catalog is so vast, there is no way that we could be comprehensive on just one album," Charlap said. "What we tried to do was to choose compositions which would honor the contributions of many important instrumentalists and composers."
He said each member chose to arrange pieces that spoke to them musically, while he worked to ensure that a varied range of musicians and material were represented. For tonight's show, Charlap said the band will perform songs by many Blue Note artists and composers that weren't showcased on the album. "Eric Webb