If Jeffery Stevenson doesn't already know how to play jazz standard "Stormy Weather," he needs to learn. And right now the University of Oklahoma undergraduate is all about learning.
The 20-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee studies both meteorology and jazz tenor saxophone. With all those demands, it's amazing he's found time to be the organizational spark plug for a new jazz performance series at Othello's Italian Restaurant, 434 Buchanan Ave. The shows are free and open to the public every Friday from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Stevenson spoke about what set him down here on red dirt and his love for jazz.
"OU actually has one of the best meteorology programs in the nation," he said.
Stevenson's already had some significant experiences. Earlier this year he deployed with an OU research team when Hurricane Dorian was at full force. In addition to being awake and working for over 48 hours straight the intrepid student scientist reported getting significant data right into the eye of the storm.
"I can definitely see some patterns between studying the weather and jazz," Stevenson said. "Music has a lot of math in it and meteorology has tons. With music its dividing beats, pitches and how those wave forms work together. It's a loose connection between the two but there is some."
In between weather adventures and study he met OkSessions CEO and co-founder Christian Pearson. His organization promotes live music, musicians and the metro industry.
"The new jazz series at Othello's is in association with OkSessions," Stevenson said. "Christian is an OU grad and encouraged me to start this show here. I had previously been helping out at a show in OKC called the Saint Sessions. That's one of the hippest places to play jazz in the city. So I've had some experience running a show and booking bands."
At Othello's Stevenson intends to feature some of the area's best jazz musicians. The University of Central Oklahoma's well-respected jazz program has already provided talent for the new series here. Othello's Jennifer Dennis is a long-time supporter of live music in her establishment.
"We're touting Othello's as the jazz capitol of Norman," Stevenson said.
University towns should have a jazz joint. Othello's already has the regular early cocktail hour piano stylings of Joel Forlenza. The place has good Italian food, a dimly-lit intimate atmosphere and full bar service. Othello's is a natural jazz club.
"It's a compact place which really brings a lot of energy to the room," Stevenson said. "That's one thing I like about jazz is you don't have to be quiet and proper when you listen to it. Just have a good time. I love being involved in the jazz scene and meeting people and other musicians. Not only getting to play with others but making friends is wonderful."
Since coming to OU Stevenson has been honing his saxophone chops at opportunities all over the metro.
"I still have a lot of room for improvement," he admitted. "I have a group here I play with called D.A.V.E. We're a quintet of all OU students. Two sax players, piano, bass and drums. We've played in other groups but this is the first semester we've played together in this combo."
D.A.V.E play jazz standards and compose their own arrangements.
"We also do some originals that I write," Stevenson said. "And Jacob our piano player writes some as well. The thing that I really like about jazz is the improvising. I love creating my own music every single time I play. I'm practicing hours a day mostly just for fun which is a good thing because I'm getting better."
Stevenson is digging the instruction received at OU.
"It's great," he said. "Jay Wilkinson is the jazz professor. He is a fantastic jazz trumpeter. I've learned a lot from him and also Dr. Jonathan Nichol. There's two OU big bands. I'm in the top one and get a lot out of that. But I also take lessons from both Wilkinson and Nichol. That has helped me so much with understanding jazz theory and improvising."
Metro Jazz Collective will be the outfit playing Othello's tonight.