The Next Generation of American Songbook Performers following the Rat Pack era

Steve-Tyrell-ThatLovinFeelin-mediumI have to admit to a bit of trepidation…

At first I was jazzed to learn that Steve’s visit to Austin was timed with the release of That Lovin’ Feeling —  his new LP. There’s nothing like catching an artist performing new material he’s really jazzed about.

But when I saw the album promo materials emphasizing Tyrell singing “standards of another kind”… I have to admit I was concerned.

“Hound Dog”… Really?

After delivering 10 albums over nearly twice that many years that are spectacular exhibitions of mostly classic Tin Pan Alley standards, Steve moved uptown to 49th and Broadway on his 11th LP release … delivering 15  tracks of next generation ’50s and early ’60s era pop/R&B classics —  the Brill Building sound. [Read more…]

Share

photo: John Griffeth

I was lucky enough…

…to catch up with Deana Martin for a phone chat the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This was a VS bucket list event for me, and Deana turned out to be every bit as lovely and charming in person as she appears on stage!

Deana was packing for a trip to LA to visit family and to kick off her holiday tour at the Catalina Jazz Club the day after Thanksgiving; she was nice enough to carve an hour out of her very busy schedule for an interview that was both a great deal of fun and informative.

Did I mention Deana is a busy lady? Following the Catalina gig, Deana whirlwinded her way through tour stops in Florida and Ohio, and this week makes her way to Las Vegas for a guest appearance in The Dennis Bono Show on Thursday (12/13) at South Point Casino followed by two nights headlining at The Smith Center (14th & 15th).

But before she hit the road…

… we talked about: her dad Dean (of course), the holidays, Christmas music and recording “White Christmas” with Andy Williams (sadly what turned out to be Andy’s final recording), Deana’s interesting career path, food, Uncles Frank & Sammy, growing up in a Rat Pack/Hollywood styled  “Camelot”, her exhausting performance schedule … we covered a lot of ground!

With Christmas fast upon us, and the special poignancy of the Christmas holiday in Deana’s life — especially this year — I thought I’d offer up the holiday portion of my conversation with Ms. Martin for your seasonal reading pleasure. So grab something mulled or ‘noggy and join me for my chat with Deana Martin! [Read more…]

Share

© Tina Tyrell

The pantheon of American Song Book writers…

In my recent Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books article, I called out Burt Bacharach and Hal David (others) as song writer/composers that belonged in the same conversation with the greats that Ella and Norman Granz targeted with the Verve Records “Ella Sings…” Song Book series.

I want to follow up on that because I think it’s both important and cool to view the corpus of the Great American Song Book as a living, growing thing.

Right on the heels of the generation of foundational standards writers like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin bros, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer — the Ella Song Books — came another generation of equally talented composers and lyricists that took their turn with baton and pen.

I can think of few (Henry Mancini maybe?) that experienced greater success in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s than Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

As Steve Tyrell says in the liner notes of his fabulous tribute album — Back to Bacharach — Burt and Hal effectively…

“…created the modern chapter of the Great American Song Book … the new standards of the twentieth century were born.”

[Read more…]

Share

Michael Feinstein put’s on a hell of a show!

Susan King has a cool ‘Culture Monster’ article…

…in the LA Times today (here) that features a brief interview with Michael Feinstein.

The interview covers a mash of subjects as more or less a promotion builder for his upcoming Sinatra Project touring performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa this Saturday.

Michael recounts one of his interesting Sinatra Project show anecdotes relating to how he first met Mr. S, and there’s some other interesting consumables in the piece, but the interesting bit is when Susan King asks MF to do the impossible!

King pushed Feinstein to name his five favorite Sinatra numbers. I think we all know, that simply can’t be done … Sinatra rendered way too much “distinctively Frank” material to possible cull five songs out as a favorites list.

But Michael is a smart guy …

…and rather than name “favorites”, he answered with a list of five “essential” Frank Sinatra songs and proceeded to offer some really interesting insight on each number — hitting on musical, historical and emotional levels.

There are few people that know the history of the Frank and the Rat Pack era — the songwriters, arrangers, musicians and singers from the golden era of popular American standards — like Michael Feinstein.

Agree or disagree with Michael’s list, it’s damned impressive that he even took a thoughtful swing at the impossible question; it’s definitely worth linking over to the LA Times (again here) to read Feinstein’s perspective on his “essential Sinatra” numbers.

 

Share

I’m not sure why…

…hearing Nancy LaMott’s version of “Blue Skies” on the radio last weekend hit me so hard, but it did.

I was deep into editing/prepping for transcription the audio files from my recent Luca Ellis interview — for an article planned for late this month — when Nancy’s “Blue Skies”  spun up and wrenched me right out of my editing session.

I remember staring at her name as the growl popup faded away, and then just leaning back and listening.

Being a fan of Nancy’s cabaret styled interpretations for years, I have heard her sing that number many times — it was different this time.

Known to me for years, the tragic end to Nancy’s too short life (marrying the love of her life just hours before losing her bout with cancer — an end only Shakespeare could appreciate) washed over me again and settled on my psyche like a ton of bricks.

I stopped prepping Luca (so to speak) and queued up both of Nancy’s excellent “Best of…” LPs.

That Saturday afternoon was now lost as I steeped in the sweet evocative vocal interpretations of Nancy LaMott … at once celebrating her life and career, (re)mourning her loss, and contemplating the wonderful music that we were never to hear from this lady — the blank pages in the American Songbook Nancy was meant to fill.
[Read more…]

Share

I’m sure…

Glad Rag Doll will garner Ms. Krall critical acclaim and more Grammy nominations for her creative exploration of turn-of-the-century (1920’s) ragtime music, but I found GRD …well, pretty much unapproachable.

I’ve mentioned many times how much I enjoy panning for new gold in the depths of the American Songbook — looking for artists and songs that I’ve not heard before. I’m “all in” on the idea of exploration.

However, to me Glad Rag Doll sounds like a Ken Burns PBS documentary soundtrack — an academic exercise — more than a pleasant exploratory listening experience.

As evidenced by the many high-concept album reviews to be found on VocalStandards.com (Sammy Davis, Sinatra, Karrin Allyson…to highlight a few), I’m clearly a big fan of theme LPs.

As such, I held out a great deal of hope for DK’s latest; but sadly I found the album’s monolithic ragtime focus jarring … detached.

Rather than a fun sense of exploration, listening to Glad Rag Doll — 17 tracks that I simply have no connection with — is wearisome. To a ragtime music aficionados GRD may be treasure, but to me it’s more like a homework assignment from music appreciation class.

(Heavy sigh) I’m truly taken aback. [Read more…]

Share

A day late …

Sorry for missing yesterday Deana. I spent your birthday driving through the desert and winging my way home after seeing Robert Davi deliver a great performance at Soboba Casino Saturday night — part two of my Davi-Luca Ellis “LA swing“.

Home now, exhausted and belated but still want to offer Deana congrats and “Happy Birthday” wishes.

I’m committed to seeing her on stage sometime in 2012. We have Tony Bennett coming up next month and then I  plan to dial in one of Deana’s holiday shows in New York.

In the mean time…

Deana recently shared a great anecdote about her “formal” singing lessons that I found fascinating. It was part of a NY Post interview piece Ms. Martin did with Frank Scheck  last week (here).

The details of the singing instruction itself was very interesting, but the light this sidebar piece shed on the basic make-up of both her father, Dean and Frank Sinatra was amazing. [Read more…]

Share

© Getty Images

Just want to pass along a quick hitter…

… on Michael Feinstein’s summer tour. If you ever find Mr. Feinstein in or near your town, do yourself a favor and grab some seats for the show.

I caught Michael’s “Sinatra Project Tour” last year in Austin (review here) and man, that guy puts on one hell of a show.

In addition to a fun, high energy vocal act, MF displays his talent as a musician and his vast backstory knowledge of the performers, writers and musicians from the heyday of the RatPack generation.

Though Feinstein is a fount of information on Sinatra and his contemporaries, Michael’s stage presence never bogs down — you never feel lectured to. Rather his insights on the writers and performers lend depth and interest to the numbers and — in the end — he delivers a rich and enjoyable experience. [Read more…]

Share