Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Marissa Mulder, Billy Eckstein, Karen Oberlin...and more!


"If I talk about something I either talk about it or I DO it… the minute I talk about it it’s lost all it’s drive and all it’s fun."
-Carol Channing



Happy Hump Day!
According to the urban dictionary, "The middle of a work week (Wednesday); used in the context of climbing a proverbial hill to get through a tough week."
And in this case, it is also the middle of the month! Hard to believe we are already halfway through June! Already this month, I've seen Kimberly Faye Greenberg in ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE, and The Tony Awards!

At the risk of repeating myself, I thank God daily for the options I have in terms of seeing LIVE shows here in NY. Those of us who are members of the cabaret community are inundated daily with requests to go see each others shows. There is a sort of tit for tat mentality of "You come see me, I'll come to see you". The bottom line is I can't afford to see as many shows as I would like to. I would, however, love to see the venues that book these shows take a more pro-active stance in terms of promoting the artists they book and with Twitter and Facebook and other social networking sites, there is absolutely no reason why all the rooms are filled. If any of the booking managers of any of the cabaret rooms see this, put me on your payroll!
I can guarantee I could turn things around in 6 months. You would be amazed!
I also have an idea for a new show!
I'm now trying to figure out the perfect venue!
Readers, please way in!
Facebook has put us all in touch with each other in a way that has never happened before and it is still growing in leaps and bounds. I get up to 25 friend requests each day! If it is not a name that I am familiar with, I always ask how we know each other. I TRY to maintain a relationship with everyone in my networks! Imagine what Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn would have done with this technology! They used to personally answer all of their fan mail between takes on their sets!

I received a friend request earlier this week with someone that I was not familiar with. She then went on to tell me that she has a show opening at The Metropolitan Room on Thursday night directed by Karen Oberlin,musical director Bill Zeffiro, and celebrating the music of Jimmy Van Husen(Pictured)!
Jimmy Van Heusen (January 26, 1913 - February 7, 1990) ANOTHER AQUARIAN!, was an American composer. He wrote songs mainly for films and television (but also for the theater), and won four Academy Awards for Best Original Song, and an Emmy.

That was good enough for me, I love all three! My only regret is that I am booked tomorrow night and unable to attend. But the good news is that I can write about her! Ladies and gentlemen, today I am presenting Marissa Mulder!

Marissa Mulder grew up in Syracuse, New York and in 2007, graduated from Suny Geneseo where she studied musical theatre. Her biggest musical influences were her grandparents. When Marissa was little, her grandmother directed her in several concerts and shows at St. Ann's Church in Syracuse. Her grandfather introduced her to the music of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland,
Rosemary Clooney and Billy Eckstine.
Billy Eckstine (8 July 1914 – 8 March 1993), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as William Clarence Eckstein. He changed the spelling to Eckstine after a club owner said the original spelling was “too Jewish”.
Eckstine was an American jazz singer and bandleader who also played trumpet, valve trombone, and guitar. He also performed briefly as Billy X. Stine. His nickname was Mr. B. Although best known as a singer, his openness to new music made him a strong influence on modern jazz, particularly bebop, as he gave employment to many of the musicians who founded the style.

After singing with the Earl Hines band from 1939 to 1943 he led his own band from 1944 to 1947. The band featured at various times a large number of rising jazz stars, including:

Saxophones: Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Lucky Thompson, Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray, Budd Johnson, Leo Parker
Trumpets: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro
Drums: Art Blakey
Singers: Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan
Eckstine later formed an octet, then went solo, becoming a popular ballad singer while remaining an important figure in jazz. His huge, distinctive baritone made him one of the first African American singers to have mainstream success. He was the composer of the blues classic “Jelly, Jelly” and also recorded the R&B top hit “Stormy Monday Blues” in 1942 (not to be confused with T-Bone Walker’s 1947 “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)”).
Eckstine was a style leader and noted sharp dresser. He designed and patented a high roll collar that formed a B over a Windsor-knotted tie, which became known as a Mr. B. Collar. In addition to looking cool, the collar expanded and contracted without popping open, which allowed his neck to swell while playing his horns. The collars were worn by many a hipster in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In 1984, Eckstine recorded his final album, I Am A Singer, featuring beautiful ballads arranged and conducted by Angelo DiPippo.



Marissa came to New York and quickly delved into the Great American Songbook and cabaret, to which she is now utterly devoted. Last year she made her cabaret debut at Don't Tell Mama under the direction of her mentor, singer Karen Oberlin. She was a top ten finalist in this past summer's Metro Star Challenge at the Metropolitan Room.

Karen Oberlin, a jazz-pop singer and recording artist, is a Back Stage Bistro Award winner and Nightlife Award finalist for Outstanding Vocalist of the Year.
For her tribute to lyricist Yip Harburg, The New York Times praised Oberlin as having "musical intelligence... purity, naturalness and polished phrasing, with added colors and a jazzy spontaneity. (Oberlin is) a jazzier inheritor of (Doris) Day's impeccable pop style." Rex Reed called her performance "thrilling," and continued, "Oberlin is as lovely to look at as she is to hear... (her singing) rings true and funny and flawless."
She has performed at major New York venues such as Town Hall, Merkin Hall, The Metropolitan Room and The Firebird, among others, and she entertained sold-out audiences at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room to launch the release of her highly lauded debut CD, "My Standards" (Miranda Music). Oberlin has since released her award-winning album, "Secret Love: The Music of Doris Day" (Miranda Music). She performed in the world premiere of the newly discovered musical by Duke Ellington and Herb Martin, "Renaissance Man," as well as in an all-star CD version, "Secret Ellington" (True Life), which featured Joe Lovano, Grover Washington, Jr., and Freddy Cole (pictured),
among others. She has also had guest appearances on other CD compilations, and is working on a new recording of the songs of Yip Harburg.

Telling the story, both musically and lyrically, is what I find most exciting and galvanizing as a performer," Karen Oberlin recently said in an interview. Hailed as one of premier interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Nightlife, Bistro, and MAC Award-winning vocalist Karen Oberlin very recently received rave reviews for her three-week engagement at the legendary Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Stephen Holden in The New York Times said "Beyond having a pretty voice, poise and interpretive insight... Ms. Oberlin has impeccable classic pop style (and) musical intelligence.” Rex Reed, in the New York Observer, called her recent performance “thrilling,” and continued, “Oberlin is as lovely to look at as she is to hear -- subtle, elegant and musically spot on. She’s a keeper!” The music critic for The Nation, David Yaffe, says Ms. Oberlin “reaches into the minds and muses of our golden repertoire to teach us, dazzle us, and send us to a Tin Pan Alley nirvana, as deep as the ocean and high as the sky. She is truly a marvel.” Along with the Algonquin, she has appeared at major New York venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Feinstein's at the Regency, Town Hall, Iridium Jazz Club, Merkin Hall and The Metropolitan Room, among others. Nationally, she has performed at Guild Hall in the Hamptons, The Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, The Prince Theatre in Philadelphia, and the Royal Room at the Colony Palm Beach, to name a few. She entertained sold-out audiences at the Oak Room to launch the release of her highly lauded debut CD, "My Standards" (Miranda Music), the first of her two acclaimed CD’s, her second being the award-winning, “Secret Love: The Music of Doris Day” (Miranda Music). She can be heard on a number of compilations, including the newly discovered musical by Duke Ellington and Herb Martin, "Renaissance Man," in the all-star CD version, "Secret Ellington" (True Life), which featured Joe Lovano, Grover Washington, Jr., and Freddy Cole, among others. She has a new CD, recorded live at the Algonquin, released November 2010.

Ms. Oberlin appeared in more than 100 Off-Broadway performances of the smash-hit show "Our Sinatra,” and has performed her own shows nationally and abroad. She had the honor of being part of the first-ever Cabaret Conventions in both Philadelphia and the Hamptons and has performed in the New York shows at both Jazz at Lincoln Center and at Town Hall, where she was also featured in the Broadway By The Year series at Town Hall. Along with playing Maureen in the first staged incarnation of the now-legendary Broadway show, “Rent,” Ms. Oberlin has also held lead roles at such prestigious theatres as the North Carolina Theatre, the Palace Theatre in Louisville, among others. She has appeared as a professional actress in everything from Shakespeare to national commercials, including playing a recurring nurse on “All My Children” and can been seen in both independent and feature films. She also enjoyed being part of a professional a cappella group called "Where’s The Band?" for many years.

Ms. Oberlin has a deep background in classical music, jazz, cabaret, theater and musical theater. The granddaughter of Vaudevillians and the youngest daughter of two classical musicians, she often performed and competed in classical singing events and performed steadily in theater, musical and otherwise, growing up in Central New York. As a child she played piano and flute, and cello in the county orchestra, performed in her first role in an opera at age six, and as a teen led a few local rock and new-wave bands. Since then she has performed continuously and trained extensively, graduating from the Circle In The Square Professional Workshop Broadway theatre conservatory in New York after receiving her B.A. in English Literature. New York City led Ms. Oberlin to jazz and deepened her appreciation for the Great American Songbook. She has studied voice for more than twenty years, and she teaches master classes in acting, singing and interpreting song, including teaching at Singers Forum in New York City. Ms. Oberlin is a dedicated yogi, a very happy mother and stepmother, and is married to the writer David Hajdu.


Now, back to Marissa: She recently sang in the Mabel Mercer Foundation series Cabaret On Mondays at the National Arts Club hosted by Donald Smith.

Listen to Marissa HERE.
Marissa frequently headlines at the restaurant La Mediterranee here in NYC and performs often with Vocal Ease, the MAC Award-winning initiative which brings top level performers to local New York senior citizens.

She was featured in an all-star tribute to the music of Mickey Leonard on February 10th, 2011 at the Metropolitan Room. Will Friedwald in his review in the Wall Street Journal wrote,
"Composer Michael "Mickey" Leonard is one of those gloriously unique New York characters who make the city what it is. For his "day job," he's labored for 50 years in the commercial-music industry, writing and orchestrating for films and TV (and, on two memorable occasions, for Broadway). But he has spent his nights in the city's jazz clubs and cabarets, where he and his songs are always a welcome presence.
You might say that Mr. Leonard is a quintessential New York songwriter—except that his music is too unique and too beautiful for him to be an archetypal anything.
Mr. Leonard is best known for the 1965 Broadway show "The Yearling," based on the classic 1938 book and 1946 film, and he is the first to admit that the musical "was a total disaster," as he said in an interview last week. "We opened on Friday and closed on Saturday." Yet two of the songs—"I'm All Smiles" and "Why Did I Choose You," with music by Mr. Leonard and lyrics by his longtime partner, Herb Martin—were immediately picked up by jazz and pop singers, starting with Barbra Streisand. The online All Music Guide lists more than 300 albums containing either of these two songs, by artists as disparate as Mabel Mercer, Marvin Gaye and Vijay Iyer. Perhaps the most celebrated interpretations of the two "Yearling" standards are by legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans, on a 1969 album titled "From Left to Right," with orchestral arrangements by the composer himself.

Mr. Leonard, who remains coy about his age, was born in Rockville Centre, Long Island, but grew up on the Upper West Side and has resided in Manhattan ever since. He studied classical music at Juilliard and the Handel Conservatory in Munich, and learned to arrange for big bands and singers from the great Sy Oliver. He infiltrated the pop music world with the aid of his brother, who was a professional song plugger and worked as a delivery boy for a music publisher.
Around 1960, Mr. Leonard conducted for the crooner Dick Haymes (who had been a rival to Frank Sinatra a generation earlier) before serving as musical director for the younger pop star Tommy Sands, who was then married to Nancy Sinatra. That marriage didn't last, but Mr. Leonard and Ms. Sinatra have been close ever since. In a recent email, Ms. Sinatra said: "We have been friends for almost 50 years. I have had the pleasure of recording and performing several of his achingly beautiful, emotional melodies."

"The highlight of my life, I think, was Bill Evans," Mr. Leonard said. In 1969, he was recruited by the pianist's manager "to arrange an album for him that would get played on the easy-listening stations." A harsh critic of his own work, Mr. Leonard dismisses "From Left to Right" as "mostly elevator music"—except for one track, "The Dolpin." "When we heard the playback, I had the idea to add a woodwind part based on Bill's solo line. That's why on the CD there's a 'Dolphin-Before' and a 'Dolphin-After.'"

At the February 10th show, which was produced and hosted by singer Karen Oberlin, the songs were by turns upbeat and contemplative, depicting the blossoming of love (Ms. Oberlin's rendition of "Don't Let a Good Thing Get Away") and its end ("Where Do The Lonely Go?" as sung by Ellen Bullinger), as well as themes of innocence (Marissa Mulder doing "Spring Is a New Beginning") and disillusionment (Maud Hixson doing "Childhood's End"). It was a measure of what Mr. Leonard means to the cabaret community that two singers, Ms. Hixson and Barbara Brussell, had flown in at their own expense from, respectively, St. Paul and Los Angeles, to be there.
The concert reached its own highlight with Mr. Leonard's contemporary cabaret perennial "Not Exactly Paris," delivered as an intimately autobiographical communication by the veteran Joyce Breach. Earlier in the evening, another long-distance runner, vocalist Mark Murphy, brought the packed room to its feet with Mr. Leonard's swinging waltz "I'm All Smiles." For 90 minutes, some 150 New Yorkers were, indeed, all smiles."


Marissa will perform her new show, "Look to Your Heart", featuring the songs of Jimmy Van Heusen tomorrow night , also at the Metropolitan Room.
Billed as "a determined, if ditsy, cabaret debut," Marissa Mulder keeps her word. She seems to have been "born in a trunk," with a remarkable ease and stage presence displayed for one so young and inexperienced. Off on "Route 66," Marissa stops midway through to chat with a friend sitting ringside, without a care in the world. Her big, expressive voice is rivaled only by her big and lovely head of red hair, and her pretty smile.
She chose an eclectic grouping of songs that showed off the multi-colored facets of her voice: the high drama of "Apathetic Man," an urgent rendition of "Another Hundred People" paired with "Night Song," and a breathy "Detour Ahead".
She paid tribute to Grandpa with a grouping of standards, posing atop the piano. "Sentimental Journey" needed some work on top notes, while "It's Only a Paper Moon" didnít show off her better vocal attributes. She's much more at home with the bluesy "I Enjoy Being a Girl" and novelty wit of "Everybodyís Girl." Deep emotions rose, singing to her brother, after telling a story about her Grandmother's influence, in "No One Is Alone.
Mulder bubbles with a breathlessness relating stories that set up her songs. She is what is known as "good on her feet"! She's playful, has high energy and this "ditsy" redhead should do well in her chosen path. Kudos to Karen Oberlin, in her directorial debut, and to Tracy Stark, Musical Director."
Sandi Durell

That lovely Sandi Durell review was for Marissa Mulder's last show, last year, but she has a brand-new review from Rob Lester on Nitelifexchange.com for this year's show that's fantastic!



Another entertainer that is returning to cabaret Saturday night is Vickie Phillips!
SONGS OF LIFE, LOVE AND OTHER MOMENTS SHOW
Saturday, June 18 · 7:00pm
Vickie Phillips is a familiar face on the
Manhattan cabaret scene as an award-winning
singer and actress who has been praised by the New
York Times critics as "a one-woman room warmer"
and "a performer who creates her own viable
interpretation." 2004 OOBR winner for Songs Are
Like Friends.

Her off-Broadway credits include leading roles in
Merry-Go-Round, A Safe Light, Far Side of the
Moon, Musically Speaking, and Together with Music.
Visit Vickie Phillip's website for more info!


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Tomorrow's blog will be about...The NY SHEET MUSIC SOCIETY!
I'm open to suggestions


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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED SUMMER!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

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