On Tuesday, September 20th, Gilcrease Museum was home to a night of live jazz and good food. The Jazz Night was centered on a performance by the Western Swingabilly Jazz Tribe, who can usually be found playing at various venues around Tulsa. The players introduced themselves as Mike Cameron on clarinet and tenor sax, Shelby Eicher on violin, Scott McQuade on accordion, Sean Al-Jibouri on guitar and Dean Demerritt on upright bass. After introductions were made and listeners had gotten their drinks from the cash bar in the room, the group played a series of “gypsy jazz” songs. The setlist included songs by Jimmy Giuffre, Hank Williams and other beloved songwriters. I wasn’t sure what was being played most of the time, being a newbie to “swingabilly” music, but I enjoyed the passion and the talent possessed by the players nevertheless. There was never a moment where the band didn’t look like they were doing what they loved to do most.
The audience seemed to be equally enthralled with the performance as they were with the casual conversations held at every table. I learned from a regular of these jazz nights that Gilcrease holds performances such as this one about once a month and professional swing dancers sometimes stop by to give a performance. This night, there were no professional dancers to be seen, but one particularly bold couple stood up about 5 songs in to give us an amateur taste of swing. They danced as if they were in their own living room, and the jazz players grinned and played with even more energy. To the regulars, Jazz Night seemed to be not only a concert but a gathering place for like-minded folks.
The jazz show was performed in the Vista Room and was free to get into with museum entrance. The optional buffet was hosted by the Gilcrease’s own restaurant and cost $8. I tried a little bit of everything from the buffet and enjoyed it all, but I especially recommend trying the bourbon bread pudding. The show lasted from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and the art rooms in the museum stayed open until 8 for those wanting to do a little meandering before going home. Whether you’re an experienced jazz fan or you’re not sure what “swingabilly” even means, these jazz nights at Gilcrease seem to be a place where anyone can come and unwind.