Pure Jazz Magazine covers the music called Jazz from a very unique perspective not seen in most publications.
in the last production “Your Own Thing.” I was hired as a chorus person who had starring roles, so they made money off of me, but the experience was great because it really prepped me for New York City, and learning about the people, and how to adjust to the various people that will come for you, people who will try to start trouble, and try to intimidate you, “Well I didn’t like the way you did that”, “Where are you from?” And I remember when I went to New York they were all asking “where are you from?” And I said Oklahoma, and they would just fall out laughing “Oklahoma!?” “Isn’t that where Indians and cowboys are?” And they would be all high fiving and slapping each other’s hands – “Yes, but there are also educated people there, there are people who attend college there.” “And it’s not just cowboys and Indians, you all need to get away from the Lone Ranger for a minute.” But this is a place you know, that appreciates the arts, and they got a chance to see that when I started getting roles, and being hired. Then they began to ask – Did you go to Julliard? Where did you really go to school, are you from PA? Aduni: Did you go to Julliard? Chuck: No, I was at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Learned everything there, and I mean I had solid instruction. I was also given many opportunities to perform there. Aduni: Who was your professor at OU? Chuck: Well, Helen Gregory was the modern dance professor, and then Yvonne Chouteau- she’s one of the five Native American ballerinas in Oklahoma – promotes all the time- Yvonne Chouteau, and then her husband Miguel Terekhov, they were – and then there was also Maria De- Baroncelli of NYC – they actually had to really push me because I didn’t have the natural ability to turn out my feet, and to know about the arms and all of that, – it was a true learning process. Aduni: Right. Chuck: And so after the first year I buckled down and practiced in the studios at night at OU, and I lived right across the street at Whitehand Hall, so I was in there all the time, and when people were partying, I was in there trying to figure out how do I … Aduni: Perfecting your craft. Page 28 - Pure Jazz Magazine Chuck: In the mirror working, and then one Saturday night (he pops his fingers) I can remember just like it was yesterday – it all clicked. And then I was – hell on wheels. Aduni: Unstoppable. Chuck: I was out – I was out to be better than him, and him – and him. And I gave them all fits, because I had figured it out – it was like – I got it! And then when I got Summer Stock, they were like, “He hasn’t even been dancing that long.” Now I was a professional. Aduni: Right. Chuck” “And this guy got it.” But I was hungry. Aduni: Yeah. Chuck: And there’s something about passion, and determination, and in the face of rejection – perseverance – I had all of those things working for me, because I knew what I wanted, and I went after it. And I thank God that it began in my home. I was also encouraged at First Baptist (of North Tulsa) with Rita Latimer Wright, Major Latimer and Julia Latimer Warren). They were incredible music teachers. Aduni: Rita Wright – right? Chuck: And Major Latimer – they gave me the opportunities to sing those solos and perform…And be up front, so you know I’m just grateful for Tulsa. Aduni: The rich cultural history here. Chuck: Rich culture here, and really great educators, I’ll have to underline that the educators, the teachers; they were encouraging. They were supporters, they pushed us, they motivated, they inspired they would say – “You can do it Mr. Cissel. - “Now sit up tall in that chair” – “breathe from your diaphragm”, - “Hold your head up high”. I mean all those little things. I walk into classrooms today and the kids are sitting like this (slumps down in his chair). Can we all just sit up tall? (clapping his hands) “Aw man, come on.” “We don’t want to sit up tall.” Enjoy the sights and sounds of Oklahoma’s rich rhythm and blues culture and discover the Sooner State’s history as a Jazz mecca. Aduni: Right, not understanding the basics. Chuck: How important it is – how it transitions into other areas of your life. I tell you what – the first day of rehearsal for a chorus line, Michael Bennett who also… Aduni: Produced your first album – oh your first song? Chuck: He produced my first song “Swept Away on MCA Records”. While I was still performing nightly in A Chorus Line. Aduni: Right. Chuck: And I kept it basically a secret from everybody, because I didn’t want any more darts in my back. Aduni: (Laughing) Chuck: Because Michael and I respected each other as artist to artist, so I didn’t have the issues as the other kids, but we sat down on that first day and he said – in a circle – and he said, “I want each of you to tell about your background, where you come from, and just open up and be honest”. Well you know the kids, the white kids there, they went, “Well I’m Barbara Jones and I grew up in Poduct, Arkansas – and I did not like my mother.” “I hated her.” “And my father was a rip-roaring whore. I found earrings in the car that were not my mother’s earrings…You know and they went on and say – they would say, “And I’ve been in therapy for eight years.” Many of them would saying very similar stories. Broke my heart. Aduni: Similar things. Chuck: And when it got to me and I said, “I’m Chuck Cissel and I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Loved my mother, and loved my dad, and I love my teachers, I love my church, and I was encouraged, supported and was told, you can do this, and you can do that, and then I tried it and did it, and liked it, and so in essence, after going through that pathway, going to OU and getting the same push, I end up in New York and here I am with you guys, and I’m just blessed to be here.” Aduni: Right. Chuck: They looked at me like… how dare you. Aduni: (Laughing)
Chuck: How dare you walk in here and sit down, and say that. Then from that point on it was like, “I am not featuring that fella right there.” Aduni: (Laughing) Chuck: They couldn’t deal with it, and then later as we go back to celebrate, and we’ve been invited back to New York several times for different anniversaries of A Chorus Line…And they send for us, and put us up in hotels and all that, and (chuckles) we finally over pizza or whatever – and some would ask, “So was your existence really that damn happy?” – and I would say, “Yes it was”. It was, and I loved Mrs. Black, I loved Ophelia Bradley at Carver, and I loved Alice B. Williams at Charles S. Johnson, and at First Baptist Church. They were all there around me, all the time and they were constantly going… Aduni: You can do it – push – sing – stand up straight. Chuck: Um-hum, and I love them for that. And your sister – was a total inspiration. Aduni: Oh Pat? – Really? Chuck: Oh my God yes, she was - that’s what I was telling some people at our reunion – we had role models in front of us, we had people we knew. We had them – we had those girls who could sing their brains out – they were beyond… looking from a twelve and thirteen, or fourteen-year-old kid - looking at somebody in high school, who can do (starts singing the Aria) “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice greatly” --- I mean your sister was flawless. And I remember she had a concert at First Baptist, I mean I was there! Aduni: I don’t know if you remember this – this is what I remember of you – because you inspired me to get into entertainment – I didn’t stay on stage I went to writing and stuff like that, but I was in the chorus line for “Hallelujah Baby” when Leslie Uggams was here and you did the choreography – you remember that? It was because of your interaction with us – and you were like this big deal from New York,– Tulsa boy from New York, and we were just so excited to be part of that. this, my first thought was you. I was like – well I know he’s in town, and it’s got to be Chuck Cissel, I can’t think of anybody else that I’d want to do that with. Chuck: Oh my God – thank you. And that’s why it’s good – I had those role models, I don’t think these kids have many older kids in front of them that they can look up to. I appreciate all of those people. I used to think that Willie Ingram, David Dinwiddie, Bobby Joe Cox, Bobby Burton, who is my cousin, I looked at them like they were – they were like little royalty to me, because they were just so cool. But then I began to focus, and I would watch them, and think – I can do that better than them. Aduni: (Laughs) Chuck: But see I needed that – I wanted – I needed that drive and I have - it’s like I can do that – I can do that better. Aduni: What five things can you – you can’t live without? Chuck: Well – my family, my computer, my close friends, my relationship with the Lord – and – music. Aduni: If I were to turn on your I-pad, or I- pod or your stereo at home, who would be on there? Chuck: Let me see… oh I love all music, but if you were to turn it on you would probably hear – “Lady Sings the Blues”, I like the sound track, I like the performances, and between she, Nat King Cole and Donny Hathaway – those three. And I actually worked with Diana Ross, so I got to watch her up close. Aduni: What did you do? Chuck: I toured with her, I was one of her singers and I was actually going to – she did this whole segment from “Lady Sings the Blues”, and she would go back and change and come out in some big – big giant – big poufy gown, and she would sit down in the middle, and the gown would be surrounding her. And she would do (singing) “Lady sings the blues”. And every time she did it – was just magic, and I thought – this little girl from Detroit… Aduni: (Chuckles) path that – and then I said, “This little boy from Greenwood is sitting here with her.” And I can remember seeing her at the Tulsa Civic Center in 1966 when they had on pink – straight gowns and all this hair and they were singing, “Come See About Me”. So those kinds of images like that really stayed with me. And so her music - and then I worked with her, and that she was a total professional, and she was much kinder than people had alluded to, “Oh she’s such a…’ you know women who do what she does are considered (spells the word) B***t’s – they’re not. Aduni: Right, she’s a business woman. Chuck: She’s a business woman, she knows what she wants (snaping fingers) and let’s make sure – got that – do this – do that. That’s what the fellows like Frank Sinatra - mess with Frank Sinatra and see what happens - any great artist… they have standards. Aduni: If you were to go and open for an artist right now, who would you like to open for? Chuck: Wynton Marsalis – at the Lincoln Center – in the big room. Aduni: In the Lincoln Center? Chuck: Jazz in Lincoln Center. Aduni: What’s your personal motto? Chuck: Do I have a personal motto? What do I live by? Yeah – “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” And that’s been my life’s story. Believing in something, when you can’t touch it; you visually see it and you go after it, and you step out. God has shown me – man I have great faith, I just don’t have faith, I have great faith. So you can’t walk into something saying, “I’m not sure”, “I don’t believe it’s going…” “I don’t…” – no for we walk by faith, and not by sight. And you have to have that in anything – going to New York City, and it’s the lesson I could teach anybody, it is faith – walking by faith, and not by sight. Believing in what God has given you, believing that he is who he says he is – you can accomplish anything. Yes you may have rejection, yes you may stumble, yes you may fall, but you (knocking on table) pick yourself back up, and you keep trying, and you keep trying… Chuck: You know what I’m saying. Chuck: Oh my God. Aduni: Right. Aduni: When I was commissioned to do Aduni: (Singing) “Get back in the race…” Chuck: You look at people, and you think the Pure Jazz Magazine - Page 29
Thelonious Monk would be turning 10
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Jasmine Morris displays her Young L