OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City has a storied jazz history.  Count Basie, Charlie Christian and other music greats all spent time playing in the state.  So why don't we have a big band presence now? Well we do, although you may not have heard of them yet.

The Oklahoma City Jazz Orchestra is the latest incarnation of big band music in Oklahoma.

"I think years ago, back in the '80s when I was in college, we had what was called the Oklahoma City Jazz Orchestra that was kinda based around Oklahoma City University," said Eric Leonard, a trombone player in the newly formed group.

Leonard is one of the orchestra's members along with Michael Anderson, Kirk Palmer, and Chris Hicks.

"Everybody's busy and everybody has their own schedules and their own lives," said Leonard.  "It just came time that, four guys, it was important enough to us to spend the time to get it rolling."   

The organizers came up with a "short list" of talented musicians to make up the big band, and to their surprise, found them available.

The group, which organized just last year and plans on performing three concerts per season.  That's not such a tall order, unless you factor in only two practices before each concert.

Dr. Kent Kidwell, a fixture on the Oklahoma jazz music scene for the past 40 years, is the group's music director.    

"We've tried to be rather conservative in our beginning year and do only three concerts and each one of them have two rehearsals," said Kidwell.  "With the caliber of players that we have sitting in this band, it's possible."

If its first two concerts are any indication, the band might be on the right track.  Its first two concerts were near-sellouts. 

"I hope that this orchestra can stay together long enough to see some growth and be patient with that growth," said Kidwell.  "And I would like to see the guys get something for it."

The orchestra is all-volunteer at this point.  The musicians all realized that to get the program up and running, certain sacrifices needed to be made.  But that's something that Kidwell believes will happen soon enough.  The group is pursuing non-profit status, and seeking out all possible funding sources.

"I'm prejudiced, but I think we oughta pay the guys," laughed Kidwell. 

THE BAND'S FINAL CONCERT OF THE SEASON IS TUESDAY, APRIL 27 AT THE PETROLEUM CLUB IN DOWNTOWN OKLAHOMA CITY.  FOR MORE INFO, CALL 405-232-1184 OR VISIT www.okcjazzorchestra.com.