Monday, May 13, 2013

Welcome back, Abbe Buck!



Abbe Buck

Good times and bad times: I’ve seen them all and I’m here.
-Carlotta in Follies

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
-Beautiful Boy by John Lennon

Abbe Buck is a traditional jazz and popular vocalist. She reminds one of the smooth stylings of Jo Stafford, Doris Day and Julie London. 
Her voice is a refreshing echo of the past when singers sang and understood the words. Dance or sit back, and enjoy!” – T. Stephen Eggleston

I have made myself familiar with the lives of great men and women; I have met and interviewed many outstanding men and women in all lines of human endeavor; and I have often wondered just what it was/is that took them to the top. ALL of them have had a profound effect on me. Abbe Buck is one such person. She is a singer of jazz standards. She brings the verve of a band singer to her vocals, along with an infectious
sense of humor.
Abbe’s mother died very young. She was thirty eight when she passed. Abbe had just turned sixteen and she had three younger siblings that she had to take care of a while and it was very tough. They were urban kids in Chicago land. Abbe has been fortunate to have mentors her entire life and one of them was Tony Perkin’s Mom, Janet Rane. Everybody called her Jane. She was a very strong personality. Some even said that the bond that Tony had with her was not dissimilar to Norman Bates and HIS mother in Psycho! She started an email correspondence with Abbe and it helped Abbe with her survival. She told Abbe that she needed to “buck up”, that she basically had to stay on her toes. Abbe’s father was very much a ne'er-do-well. He didn’t desire to take care of four kids. It was very tough. 
It also had a big impact on Abbe and she lost a lot of the things she desired to do.  
Remember, she was very young. They still managed to make it. They really did. A lot of that had to do with adults that cared for them and “Jane” was one of them. That was very fortuitous for them. She began to listen to the big bands of Woody Herman and Gene Krupa in Junior High. She subsequently worked with several big bands including the Marie Landis Big Band in Philadelphia during the 1980s, and several trios and quartets in the Philadelphia and New York City areas. She learned how to by listening to the phrasing and ''storytelling'' on the albums of Rosemary Clooney and other singers of the boomer generation, such as Bea Wain, Margaret Whiting and Bob Stewart, all who became friends of Abbe Buck. Throughout the eighties and nineties, Abbe and Rosemary were good friends.
This was around the time that she made frequent appearances at Michael’s Pub and Rainbow and Stars and her appearance at the Kennedy Center in DC up until Rosemary’s death. Rosemary mentored Abbe and was the one who encouraged her to go out and make a CD. That CD has been on Amazon for twelve years! It is still selling strong and Abbe remains in a perpetual state of shock over that. AMAZON Editorial Reviews...Abbe Buck's ''Songs from a Bygone Era'' celebrate the true ''swing'' idiom ...traditional jazz...pop...). Rosemary along with other coaches helped Abbe to get rid of her regional Illinois accent. Rosemary liked Abbe’s voice and taught her about tone. She told Abbe to never quit. She told her she may never be famous but it didn’t matter. Abbe should be doing it for Abbe. She will never forget that. Rosemary was also very encouraging for Abbe to be in the Society of Singers. Rosemary was honored by them before her death. Abbe has also known Mercedes Ellington and the later Sy Kravitz (Lenny’s father) and Marlene Ver Plank. She also got to work with many of them on the public relations side. When there was the Society of Singers, Chapter East, they did a very big event for the late Bobby Short. That was a wonderful event that took place in 2000.

Abbe takes where she learned how to sing very seriously, by keeping the genre of true traditional pop and jazz alive. 
She last sang in New York in the late 1980s, and is leaving Virginia to sing in NYC once again! 
Abbe did supper club, piano bar and light jazz, the kind of songs that Sylvia Syms sang with the great pianist Art Tatum in the 1940s, or that Lee Wiley sang with her then-husband, pianist Jess Stacy. Abbe was also on the Board of the Society of Singers, Chapter East in 2000-2002.That led to Abbe meeting Jenny Mancini and many others in the music world from the main chapter on the West Coast. The Society of Singers has an annual award every year. For more information, please visit http://www.singers.org
What the Society does is help singers in need. Those that are infirmed, those that need help,those that need social workers. It does a great deal. The Society of Singers or “SOS” as Abbe affectionately refer to the organization “is dedicated to assisting vocalists who are in their twilight years or are infirm, who had never received royalties for recording during the big band or rock and roll eras. Proceeds from Buck’s CD ''Big Band Swing and Saloon Style'' go directly to the Society of Singers organization. In the eighties, she was really thriving.
Everything was going along swimmingly and then it just stopped around 1989. She was appearing at Upstairs at Greene Street to a stellar crowd. Among the luminaries was Ben Bagley, known for his "revisit" albums.
It totally came to a halt. She gave birth to her boy and she started doing public relations. It went in stops and starts throughout Philadelphia and Washington DC. She stayed in touch with the DC Cabaret Network. She did public relations and came back with a big roar. 
She also started working with Edmund Charles and that aspect of her career also started to come back with a big roar over the past two years. It had been dormant for a long time. It has been a big miracle. It is almost as if she is having an out of body experience observing it all. She looks at it all and wonders “What is going on?”

Abbe’s husband believes in reincarnation and Abbe is beginning to because of all that is happening in her life right now. 
It is like having a second chance to do what she has always desired to do and it may now be her time. She now is beginning to believe that she must have been alive in the 1920s because everything she does seems to be channeling from that era. She seems to know the cadences and the pitches and even playing a kazoo from that era of the twenties and thirties. She seems to know the ways and wherefores of every aspect of that era even down to bootleg hootch. She just knows it. There is something about it. She told her husband just a few days prior to this interview that she feels like she was born in 1906. He just said, "There are second lives.
   
The biggest change that Abbe has seen in the industry since last appearing in NY is that everything is now electronic! She misses the camaraderie and the closeness that was prevalent in the cabaret scene in the late eighties that she remembers. 
She used to be able to call someone on the phone and say, “Hey, what’s going on? Let’s go have a cup of coffee and talk about music. What key do you sing that in? Can I share music with you?” 

Now her show, (the music) is on an Ipad. Everything is electronic. It’s getting to the point when it is rare to see written out arrangements. Some of the older “old school” singers still do, but there is a whole new crop of singers going the electronic route. Everything is electronic from e-mail on down. Aspects of that are fine, but human conversation is so needed. The art of communication still belongs to live performance. She doesn’t desire to see that lost by any stretch of the imagination and what she is seeing is that the art of communication is becoming more and more drowned out by a lack of communication. Abbe is someone who does Facebook and Twitter a great deal but she also picks up the phone to call someone. She’ll ask permission to call someone to have a conversation with someone.
The flipside of that coin, however, is that BECAUSE of Facebook, Bernie Furshpan, booking manager of The Metropolitan Room in NYC, found her and booked her for her upcoming performance. Also, if it weren’t for electronic media, we would not have had our interview this morning and this subsequent blog. She knows it is a contradiction in terms. It also has contributed to the other side of her career, public relations. She deals with press releases and the like on a daily basis. She has also taught people how to have a career in social media. She owes a lot to it but she does miss the days in 1987 and ’88 and when she was just starting out in 1985 when the big deal was to reach someone by phone and have a conversation and how hard it was to do that. When she reached someone by phone, she was thrilled!
Coming back to New York, Abbe will only be spending a few days here. She will be visiting her in-laws in New Jersey and seeing a lot of her old friends.
Before doing a show, there are a lot of songs that she listens to in her head. She doesn’t know if other vocalists do this. Abbe loves music by Mildred Bailey and Annette Henshaw from the twenties and thirties. It’s like an earworm in her head. She hears their songs and voices over and over in her head. She hums those songs and whistles them before going on... but no whistling in the dressing room! She’ll step out of the dressing room for that. She also sometimes works with a kazoo!
The singing career has come back like a happy “accident.” That is why she is doing this. Abbe does a lot of work in music therapy. She is a music therapist although it is going to take her a few years to get certified. She does a lot of work in assisted living centers. She works with Alzheimer and hospice patients. She was a patient herself and that is not to say that that is good, bad, or indifferent. She has had spinal fusion and she has a prosthesis. She does not walk with a cane and is not in a wheelchair. She walks perfectly straight and there is nothing wrong with her. She takes no pain killers. Music is what keeps her out of pain. That has also worked with her voice. What she does to stay out of pain is to work with other patients. When she sings to a patient that has lost a lot of their memory, it is like Oliver Sacks from Awakenings, the story that was made into a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. The patient actually responds to older music that they know. What Abbe does is go into assisted living facilities and sing to “clients” and suddenly what started happening to her is that her voice started to come back and she started singing professionally again.
She has a vocal coach that she works with in Virginia but is not currently studying by rote. She has had the same pianist for thirteen years.  She mainly performs with Edmond Charles on keyboard and his jazz combo, staffed with talented musicians of alto saxophone, trumpet, upright bass and drums. He will be traveling to New York with Abbe for her Metropolitan Room debut. He has a style like Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum.
Abbe is a big band/supper club singer and goes back to an earlier era. The singer today is aided by amplification and will lip-sync off of a recording. Not Abbe. She evokes the feeling, sense of style, and sensibility of such singers as Mildred Bailey and Connee Boswell, and Lee Wiley. Abbe is proud to have cared about many of the vocal giants that have come before her. Abbe has a very smooth sound like those vocalists from the forties. At The Metropolitan Room, Abbe will be singing traditional pop and jazz of the twenties, thirties, and forties AND she will be singing it the way that it was written, thirty-two bars in and out as they say in the trades. She will be singing these songs the way they were meant to be sung. She knows the genres well. She has known these since she was a little girl. Her musicians are going to play the songs as they were written. She is going to sing them as they were originally sung in saloons (as bars were originally called and supper clubs. She is treating this show as if she was singing in a supper club. This music must pass on and be enjoyed by new generations.
After The Metropolitan Room, Abbe will be performing in Blues Alley in the DC area on July 21st. She has some other things that she is lining up now and she is going to be singing with Vince Giordano and his band the night after her Met Show. Please note that she is just sitting in on a couple of numbers. This will be at Sofia’s Restaurant. This is the band that plays on Boardwalk Empire soundtrack and Abbe is thrilled to be sitting in. This is her era! Oh My God!! She is like a kid in a candy store. She is bringing Let’s Fall In Love and Ain’t Misbehavin’ which she is doing at The Metropolitan Room. She has these arrangements with horns and just desires to be there. This is not a real gig but just an opportunity to sing with such a great band.
This is a very surprising time for Abbe. Abbe is equally comfortable in a room of fifty or an audience of twenty five hundred plus. She is now creating the foundation for a five year plan. What she would like to do is perform six to eight times a year in Chicago, New York, Branson, Washington DC, Palm Spring, Las Vegas, and in Boston; basically one time in each city.  Big or small, she lives to entertain. She calls herself, “the last of the throwbacks” from the days of the Hollywood Palace, when entertaining as well as the voice meant something to the audience. She also would consider cruise ships. Having the audience go away happy is what Abbe strives to do every time she sings. She desires to do the genre of music that she loves in all of these cities. She desires to find an agent, if she can, or else she will represent herself to venues that will be open to this type of genre. Doing what she does, which is traditional, is now a little different from what is being booked out there. It is a throwback to the actual era. In her show at the Metropolitan Room, she has a soprano sax. Abbe seeks to keep an era alive that is leaving us very quickly. She will also have a muted trumpet. This will be like a concert, in a way. She takes her audiences back in time. Hopefully, this will happen beyond the Metropolitan Room whether she succeeds or “fails.” At least she would have tried. She is not worried about failure. Failure is not an option. Everything happens for a reason. Abbe’s eyes are wide open and she is thrilled.
The advice that Abbe would give to anyone desiring to follow in her footsteps is to “Know your craft. Know what you are doing.” Abbe heard a story about a vocalist that made her shudder. She shares this story with anybody that desires to pursue a singing career. There are a lot of shows on television now like The Voice and American Idol. This female vocalist went into a recording studio and for six hours she tried to sing jazz. She worked and worked until she got her CD “right”. She then went out and tried to get work and could not sing one song in her key because everything was done electronic. She presented herself with her CD telling everyone that was how she sounded. When she went to sing LIVE, she couldn’t. Everything was manufactured. Every singer must have an “instrument”. They MUST be able to perform and they must be able to engage an audience. When a singer can’t, it’s not going to work. This is advice that Abbe takes to heart herself.
I asked Abbe what her biggest vice and greatest virtue is. Her biggest vice USED to be that she beat herself up terribly. Now she doesn’t. She would say that second guessing is now her biggest vice. “Can I do it?” She is, however, a little braver. Her greatest virtue is that she loves to give back. She is giving more and more, especially to her patients and clients. Whenever she sees a patient, one, in particular, a Mr. Morris, for example, at one of the assisted living centers, come to life when she sings Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable, she gets just as much, if not more, of a kick out of that than she does out of being in front of an audience of a hundred or more because she has reached somebody. That is a huge WOW for her and fixes any second guessing that she may have otherwise had. It is phenomenal that this is a person that has an incurable dis-Ease and just to reach him for five minutes is a blessing. It’s wonderful.
Just before Abbe steps on stage, she feels like a race horse with blinders on. She feels like she is in safe hands with her pianist and musical director. People are there to see a performance and to be entertained. She is going to give them EXACTLY what they are there for. She is extremely grateful when they like her and have invested their time and energy and she is going to give her all.
Abbe still considers herself to be a good student.
Her favorite TV show is Vegas, which may be going off the air, unfortunately. Abbe like it. It was a great period piece. She really likes the relationship with the Sheriff, who is the rancher, and the mobster! She really likes this show! She also likes CSI: New York because she likes seeing New York. She loves crime shows.
Anita O’Day is a role model for Abbe along with Rosemary Clooney. Her role models are mostly older singers. Mildred Bailey and Lee Wiley and a lot of vocalists also come to mind.

Abbe Buck is seeing success in having people coming up to her after her shows saying, "Thank you! THIS is the show we've been missing. We desire to see you again."

I'm convinced she is going to achieve that success!   

  And watch what happens after you have a chance to meet Abbe Buck.
Contact: William Hann   1-800-380-2825
Abbe Buck, “Saloon Songs, Vintage Style”, Metropolitan Room
Sunday, May 19, 2013, 9:30 PM. Reservations: (212) 206-0440
Links:  www.metropolitanroom.com  - http://metropolitanroom.com/show.cfm?id=95626


Thank you Abbe Buck for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!


 With grateful XOXOXs ,

 


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

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