Friday, April 11, 2014
The winter of my discontent is but a faded nightmare, and I am able to blog once more.
During my involuntary exile, there has been plenty to do: I have conducted a six-week vocal workshop which has been enlightening and highly enjoyable. The Saturday morning class has involved ladies of varying ages and backgrounds (no men, although I never stipulated a gender requirement), each one eager to explore the intricacies of the art of jazz singing.
My theory is that there is no such thing as an easy song to sing. A vocalist should choose a song because he or she is enchanted by a graceful melody, often accompanied by an equally elegant set of lyrics. It is no surprise therefore that I asked my class to examine Great American Songbook material in general, with an emphasis on several of Duke Ellington's most exquisitely demanding melodies including "Solitude", "In A Sentimental Mood" and "Prelude To A Kiss".
Tomorrow, April 12, will mark the final workshop session, but I definitely plan to begin a new six-week course at the beginning of the summer if not sooner. If you would like to join the class or want to know all the details, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes: that's Ell for Ella and Car for Carmen.
SINGING AGAIN ...
Although I have officially announced my retirement, I have been asked and accepted an offer to sing again, a decision which automatically transforms the days ahead into a period of nervous, jiggly anticipation combined with daily vocal warm-up exercises. The really good news is that Tony Bennett's magnificient quartet will be on stage with me, so I needn't be afeared. TB has always insisted the very finest musicians play for him, and his current quartet maintains that established level of excellence:
On Piano: MIKE RENZI, a native of Providence, RI is a very old friend and simply a singer's best friend. Sarah Vaughan heard him when he was only eighteen years old and instantly suggested he move to New York where she quite rightly predicted he would find instant success. She was absolutely spot on. Mike has played for so many of America's most outstanding singers such as Peggy Lee, Jack Jones, Lena Horne, Mel Torme and Cleo Laine to mention a few of the countless vocal luminaries, and you can read much more about Mike go to this site. Mike and I have worked and recorded together on numerous occasions. When I made my debut with The Boston Pops, Mike wrote brilliant and very lush arrangements for that venerable orchestra and also played piano for me at the concert in Symphony Hall in Boston.
On Bass: MARSHALL WOOD, a most highly skilled and much respected musician who lives in Massachusetts with his remarkably talented wife, the jazz singer Donna Byrne. I don't know the exact number of years Marshall has been playing for TB, but an instinctive hunch would suggest nearly a decade. A swinging, solid bass player in the venerable tradition of Ray Brown and Milt Hinton.
On Guitar: GRAY SARGENT, an extraordinarily sensitive player who always makes life easy for the singer. Like his companions mentioned above, his memory bank is over-stocked with the music of the great American composers. It is no wonder he has remained with TB for so many years. Gray provides a comfort zone that blends smoothly and effortlessly with Mike and Marshall, providing the luxurious balance of driving swing and tasteful beauty all singers use to convey the perfect texture of a song.
On Drums: JIM GWINN For this Providence performance, the New England drummer Jim Gwinn will fill in for TB's usual man on percussion. I've worked with Jim and find him very tuned to my interpretations on a ballad and more than ready for the demands of any swinging tempo. Can't wait to work with him again, and Mike, Marshall and Gray. Will I be having fun? You can bet the farm.
Sunday, April 27, 2014: Providence Marriott Hotel. All details will be furnished shortly.