GIG-14 @ The Players Theatre
An Evening with Earl Okin - Musical Genius & Sex Cymbal!
Took place on
Wed 16th August 2006 in front of an audience of 77
The Arch Dean of British Jazz Humour
A multi-talented instrumentalist he can play Duke Ellington inspired piano, or adeptly accompany himself on guitar playing the gentle Boss Novas that he so loves to sing and write. In the years that have passed Earl has established himself as a world class entertainer, and you are as likely to see him in Canada or Australia as you will in the Thame Concert Jazz Stage
Earl looks like a rather fastidious accountant, dressed in a three-piece suit. His vintage spats are immaculately white, his hair sculpted into place and a handkerchief in his top pocket gives him a rather dandified air.
...He climbs on to stage and sits down with his guitar. He looks totally out of place and the large audience continues talking, chatting, laughing among themselves. Earl remains quiet and unassuming. I want to leave the room.
Suddenly, Earl has had enough and begins to play his guitar. As he sings, the audience begins to quieten down, fascinated by the unusual figure and his seductive music. The song is slow and Jazzy (as well as very funny) and we are drawn forward to him, craning to savour every note that is sung. When all attention is captured, Earl starts to play a trumpet, using only his voice as the instrument. The impression is brilliant and the crowd breaks into a spontaneous round of applause.
Earl has a peculiar knack of making people think that he is singing solely for them. Looking round at the women in the audience, I am amazed. They are all staring, enchanted by the voice which does, I admit, sound fairly in keeping with melting honey. Is Earl Okin really going to be the next sex-symbol?
His act is soothing and easy, yet somehow fitting perfectly into the atmosphere of late-night drinking...a mixture of wit, originality and music. What strikes me most about seeing him on stage is how charming he is, how unashamedly human and accessible. As his set comes to a close, Earl receives wildly drawn out applause and has to return for an encore. To my intense relief, he is the most popular act of the night, neither threatening, tedious or self-indulgent, but totally unique and a true entertainer! KAT HELLER. CITY WISE
Earl Okin's Jazz Credentials
Earl has performed alongside such musicians as Benny Carter, Cleo Laine, Joe Pass, Stephane Grappelli (see press item) and Barney Kessel etc.
Festivals appearances include The Guinness International Jazz Festival, Ireland, The Bracknell Blues & Jazz Festival, England, and the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival, Scotland. Festivals in Brazil, Canada and Australia are currently under negotiation.
Earl wrote, sang and played in a gala concert at The Royal Albert Hall, dedicated to Duke Ellington, alongside such legends as the late Adelaide Hall.
Earl was recently one of the surprise hits of the world-famous North Sea Jazz Festival. Not only did he get a standing ovation and star in the North Sea's renowned after-hours 'jam' session, but even the battle hardened the organisers also sat up to catch his slot.
Finally, Earl has often been asked to turn critic and write articles and liner-notes on various aspects of Jazz and Bossa Nova. Recently, his articles about Duke Ellington, Bossa Nova and Benny Carter have been printed in the British Airways in-flight magazine...High Life.
The Cat In Spats - Earl Okin Profile
You might have come across this dapper English gent as a regular on MTV2 recently, playing gentle Bossa Nova versions of rock anthems like Nirvana's 'Smells. Like Teen Spirit'. 'It's quite gentle, isn't it?' says Earl, reducing the song's refrain to a gentle acoustic guitar vamp. 'Maybe if he'd played it like this he wouldn't have shot himself.'
You might also have seen him playing at any number of Jazz or Comedy venues over the last 30 years. You might even have seen him play at the Edinburgh Fringe for a record-breaking 18-year run. He's a poet, singer, guitarist, pianist, comedian, philosophy graduate, and an obsessive collector of some 10,000 records (including several thousand 78 rpm discs). And, as he likes to remind us, he's 'a bit of a sex symbol'. 'I was once told that I was the only male comedian on the circuit who performed to women directly,' says Earl, 'rather than talking to men about women.'
Born in London in 1947, Earl Okin's life story reads like a Forrest Gump-style journey through popular culture, with Earl constantly near the fringes of key cultural events. In 1959, at the age of 12, Earl appeared on a BBC TV talent show called 'All Your Own' playing guitar and singing his own songs. He wrote for The Beatles publisher Dick James, penning songs for Cilla Black and Georgie Fame. He recorded a single for EMI at Abbey Road studios in 1967 and for CBS in 1969. He was beaten to a record contract by another young songwriter in the same management stable called Reg Dwight, aka Elton John.
Throughout the 1970s Earl played Folk clubs as well as supporting the likes of Van Morrison on tour. After being spotted at the Cambridge Folk Festival, he was asked to support Paul McCartney and Wings on a UK arena tour in 1979. It was enough to convince Earl to give up his day job as deputy head of a primary school in Notting Hill.
The '70s Folk circuit, which featured the likes of Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott, served as a kind of precursor to alternative comedy. Okin again found himself appearing at the birth of this movement when he appeared at the early Comic Strip nights at the Raymond Revue Bar, alongside Alexei Sayle, French and Saunders and Rik Mayall. Soon he'd established himself on the burgeoning comedy scene, playing annually at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for an unbroken 18-year run which got him into the Guinness Book Of Records - and has led him to lead a campaign against the increasing corporate stranglehold of the Fringe.
'Musical Genius And Sex Symbol' is a live set recorded at the Kings Head Comedy Club in Crouch End. As well as Okin's deliciously dry and ironic original songs, it includes three versions of recent pop songs done in a swing or Bossa style, including 'Teenage Dirtbag' by Wheatus and 'Song2' by Blur. The versions started as part of a TV pilot for a 'Juke Box Jury'- style pop review show, where Earl would perform the 'original' version of a pop song, in the style of a Jazz, Blues or Bossa Nova standard, usually featuring his trademark vocalised trumpet solos. (His favourite is what he describes as the 'Nat King Cole' version of 'Yellow' by Coldplay.)
Valley Podcast on Earl Okin
'I'm definitely a musician who does comedy,' says Okin. 'Whereas, say, Bill Bailey is a comedian who does music. I learned when I played folk venues in the 1970s that people would just glaze over when faced with song, song, song. But, if you could make people laugh between the songs, it was like a bit of cheese with the wine. But it’s not for this reason – or at least not entirely – that he’s also referred to as Ol’ Horny Mouth. Instead, that moniker comes from his astonishing ability to recreate a small brass section, without the need for any sort of instrument.
Jazz Eddie - I have had Earl Okin in my collection for a long time and it is a constant reference of mine to the lighter side of Jazz; it is clearly underwritten by a wealth of devotion by him to this normally very serious subject which makes him such a universally appealing and unique performer.
'Musical Genius And Sex Symbol'
is his debut album for Sony Jazz available for download on Itunes
Bring some extra cash to buy your Memento CD's and get them Autographed by Earl
Earl Okin's name is legendary at the Edinburgh International Festival. In the year 2000, however, he completed his 18th and final full (successful) year reaching an unprecedented 500 performances and gaining a place in the Guinness Book Of Records! He returned, though, for one night in 2001, to take part in a large Charity Gala on 21st August at The Playhouse. He has said that he may well return to the Festival for odd one-night shows, but he will no longer perform for the whole 3 weeks. 18 years was perhaps just enough!
Earls Appreciation of the event:-
It was so nice not to HAVE to be funny all the time, but just to use humour as the salt and pepper.
It's lovely to have my MUSIC appreciated and the audience was also lovely.
If ever you want me back, all you have to do is ask.....................Earl Okin
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