Straight outta Tulsa

Leon Russell

Photo courtesy of Leon Russell

Even though he's probably older than the average SN&R reader, Leon Russell isn't one of those aging rock 'n' roll hall of famers we should all just forget about already.

First of all, he looks like a friggin’ wizard—Gandalf, to be exact. And musically, the bearded Oklahoma-born pianist and songwriter, who moved to Los Angeles in the early ’60s, has penned such classics as “A Song for You,” “Tight Rope” and “Lady Blue.”

Over the course of a nearly 60-year musical career, Russell (pictured, right), who performs on Friday, October 20, at Assembly, has also explored and blended blues, country, rock and soul to create a signature sound that’s often now called the “Tulsa Sound.”

But Russell’s finest moment just may have been his energetic performance in the George Harrison-organized Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in 1971.

Though he shared the stage with two Beatles, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, Russell managed to steal the show with a spirited rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Afterward, he retreated into the shadows—literally—switching to bass guitar and backup vocals on a few folk songs as the spotlight turned to Dylan.

Fast-forward to more recent times. Two significant events happened in 2010 for Russell: First, he spent some time in the hospital recovering from a brain-fluid leak, pneumonia and heart failure. And shortly after that, he recorded an album with Elton John called The Union, his most commercially successful record in 30 years.

Clearly, the wizard of the Tulsa Sound is still taking advantage of the time given to him by continuing to play awesome music. Sunday, October 20, 7 p.m.; $40. 1000 K Street, Suite 100; (916) 341-0176;