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Situational vibes

Eclectic music showcase at The Yeti brings musicians together

The Situation is a Monday-night showcase at The Yeti.

Hans Kleinschmidt

Last October, the weekly musical experience known as Cypher 120 abruptly ended. Local poet Written Quincey called the house band together at the Tulsa Jazz Hall of Fame to discuss their future. He’d decided to step away from the three-year project to explore other creative opportunities. This left the band with a difficult choice: abandon the outlet of a weekly open mic experience, or risk building something completely new from scratch. 

“We lost our drummer,” said D.G. Rozell, band leader and trumpet player. “We lost our keyboard player. We lost our host, but we knew we had to somehow keep it going.” 

That evening, the remaining band members decided to create a new weekly Monday night musical showcase called The Situation. 

“Personally it’s the highlight of my week,” Rozell said. “I don’t get to play with this caliber of musicians in any other band.” 

For most bands this might sound like bravado, but The Situation’s house band is truly remarkable. Longtime local voices like Bobby Moffett (aka Black Keyz) and Rozell form a cohesive unit with young jazz wunderkinds like Jake Lynn (drums), Jordan Hehl (bass), Dominick Stephens (trombone) and Johnny Mullinax (guitar)—all joined by local radio luminary DJ Aaron Bernard (105.3 KJAMZ).

“Bobby is a minister of music at his church,” Rozell explained. “Jake, Johnny and Jordan are jazz guys. I’m a hip-hopper and classical French horn player. Dom’s in funk. So, it’s like you mix all of this together and what comes out is actually a unique situation. Because you can go anywhere. We don’t have a style. One night this dude with a mullet yells out ‘play some Skynyrd!’ and Johnny just went right in. We didn’t miss a beat. Seriously, we can play anything, pop music, R&B, blues, jazz, reggae, gospel. That’s the caliber of this band.” 

Only a band with such polished chops could handle the diverse array of musical styles that regularly appear at The Situation. Each Monday night features an open mic and a special guest headliner. This artist is given 30 minutes to perform their material, often collaborating with the house band. The eclectic nature of these acts is often genre-bending. 

Experimental and indie rock bands like Native Strange and Marie Curie have shared the same stage as local hip hop notables like Steph Simon and Young DV, creating a collaborative space for both seasoned house players and young performers. 

“I really like the collectivism of the open mic,” Rozell said. “A poet just performed tonight, and he was so ecstatic because he got to direct the band. I asked him to tell us what he wanted us to play, and he did that and it came out nice. I just want these guys to come out of their shells and be able to flourish. I want The Situation to be a catapult.” 

The platform has already helped a few artists. Rozell remembers watching young performers like the R&B artist
Tea Rush.

“I invited her out for a Monday, and she’s been coming out a lot ever since. At first she was pretty shy. Now she has a band that she plays with, and she’s booking shows around town.” 

Additionally, the members of the hip-hop duo Push Gang credit The Situation with helping them build the confidence and support to land a showcase at South By Southwest this year. 

This small community of performers and musicians has begun to build a new culture at The Situation, but Rozell views all of this as just the first step. 

“We’re not running on full power here,” Rozell said. “There’s so much more to Tulsa. I would like to see all of Tulsa get behind their music scene. People on [the north] side of 244 don’t feel like they should come downtown. I feel like an evangelist almost—I gotta go find the people. People think of live music downtown and they probably just think about riding past Woody’s and hearing red dirt rock or a country band. What we’re doing here is no better or worse, but we’re trying to create a unique experience. Music has a potential to have economic empowerment ... I want to see more gospel and church music groups feel welcome downtown. I want to see more poets feel welcome to come out. I want to see more choreographed dance. We want to see people representing all facets. No limit.”

For more from Damion, read his article on The Fabulous Minx album Make ‘em All Jealous.