Being a horn player is unique because you often get asked to sit in with bands of all genres for a stand-alone gig, and I’ve done many of those at Saints Pub over the years. Saints had become MUH JAM. Most of my Saints experience was with honky-tonk, rockabilly and ‘red dirt’ bands (as exist all across this great state).
It was here in the honky-tonk days of 2016 that I met a dude who was putting together a pollen show (er, jazz show) at my favorite haunt: Saints! I was thrilled! I get to hang out in the coolest part of Oklahoma City AND play and listen to jazz? Who in the world could be responsible for saving jazz and allowing this pinnacle of artist culture to happen? Let me introduce you to Christian Pearson.
Christian was a slick, long-haired dude emceeing at the microphone that night at Saints, and I was filming the amazing Chanda Graham. Christian and I gravitated toward each other, said hi, and immediately became friends.
In these last two years, I’ve watched Christian work countless hours, always with this contagious enthusiasm that brings with it a good vibe. Soon after I met Christian, I noticed there were regular jazz concerts at Saints, and audiences were coming! Name the top 20 jazz musicians in the state, and they all will have said they have played Saints at least once.
This past Thursday, two years after the premiere of Christian’s project Saints Sessions, Christian planned two spectacular, sold-out shows to celebrate its anniversary. It could very well have been the first time that room has seen a Broadway-style production complete with choreographed tap dancers! I was already blown away when Christian was telling me his production plans on the phone. I had goosebumps. (I’m a sucker for a well-choreographed emotional moment).
Christian involved so many spectacular musicians over the course of the evening. The amazing Chanda Graham sang ‘Summertime’, Maddie Breedlove sang a hauntingly beautiful take on ‘Moon River’ and Caroline Purdy surprised the audience with an on-the-spot performance from ‘La La Land’ followed closely by Joel Andrews and Barrett Cahalan with their tap shoes on!
One of the sweetest moments was seeing Christian’s father, Bill Pearson wow the audience on flute, playing the Duke Ellington standard ‘Caravan’. The jazz apple didn’t fall far from the tree here. Seeing Bill perform gave me insight into the passion for music that Christian’s family obviously gifted him with.
Christian’s efforts in the music scene with Saints Sessions got attention from the press, and his friends joked that he was “saving jazz”, just like Ryan Gosling’s character did in ‘La La Land’. So Christian humorously owned up to the idea and decided to run with the theme for this 2-year anniversary show.
The house band for the evening was all first-call jazz cats. Garrison Brown served as musical director and played trumpet with:
This tiny clip from the Saints Sessions 2-year Anniversary Concert gives a glimpse into all the planning and passion Christian put into Saints Sessions over the years:
Though he’s not Ryan Gosling, there is an element of truth to all the joking. Christian Pearson did indeed gave the OKC jazz scene a sweet, comfortable hive, complete with a family, holidays and plenty that sweet, sweet pollen. And that’s all this jazz honey bee could ask for!