Friday, November 8, 2013

A Playlist Of Modern Singers Singing The Great American Songbook

First of all, we have to give some love to Michael Buble for bringing a lot of attention to The Great American Songbook , which is a group of American songs written roughly between 1920 and 1960. Here was this young, handsome kid belting out songs like “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Come Fly With Me” with classic arrangements, yet making them sound fresh (and thank you David Foster for the fabulous production). In my (lara’s) opinion, Michael’s success definitely has opened doors for many other artists who are also singing this music, and it is my pleasure to tell you about a few of them here. If you have a favorite who is not mentioned, let us know about them in the Comments. Happy Listening!
I have not listed these in any particular order, but I programmed this just like I would the music on a radio show for a nice variety of sound.
1.    Carol Welsman—“I’ll Be Around”  Carol is a tall, blonde, Canadian vocalist and pianist who has put out seven albums since her debut in 1995, and received five Juno nominations (that’s the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys). As you listen to this song, hear the confidence with which she assures the lover who is jilting her that she’ll be around…after things fall apart with his new love and he realizes Carol is the one for him. Chills!

2.    Tony DeSare—“Get Happy” I was blown away by the energy Tony brought to his set when I saw him live in June. Maybe that has something to do with his left hand piano style?  Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler wrote “Get Happy,” which was was introduced by legendary singer Ruth Etting in 1930; most people probably think of Judy Garland singing it in 1950’s Summer Stock (her last film). Tony’s version will take you to the Promised Land and beyond!

3.    Queen Latifah—“The Lady Is A Tramp” Who knew, back in 1994 when we first saw Queen Latifah (real name: Dana Owens) rapping on “U.N.I.T.Y.” on MTV that she would one day put on red lipstick and pearls and take on the classics? She does it brilliantly, and brings sass and some seriously smooth vocals to “The Lady Is A Tramp,” which is the song Frank Sinatra sang to Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey. Bravo!

4.    Seth MacFarlane—“Laura” When I look at Seth, he reminds me of a more handsome version of Peter Brady. A Peter Brady that can act, host, do voices, write, produce, sing, and direct, to name just a few of Seth’s talents.  When he was young, he trained with some vocal coaches that once worked with Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra (!!!), and has talked about having an attraction to the great American songbook.  “Laura” is on Seth’s album Music Is Better Than Words, and features lyrics by Johnny Mercer that were added to a tune composed by David Raskin for the 1944 Dana Andrews/Gene Tierney film of the same name.

5.    Joseph Leo Bwarie—I Can’t Give You Anything But Love None other than the legendary Garry Marshall described Joseph as “three of the most exciting words in show business.” And he should know; the two often collaborate on productions at Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake, California. Joe Leo got a huge break when he landed the role of Frankie Valli in the hugely successful musical “Jersey Boys,” and is now breaking out with a solo recording career.  He's also a lot of fun to follow on Twitter (, where he talks about everything from crab cakes in Maryland to upcoming shows.

6.    Renee Olstead—“(I’d Like To Get You On A) Slow Boat To China”  I love this arrangement of Frank Loesser’s 1948 song, which is poppy and features Carol Welsman on background vocals. This song can be found on Renee’s self-titled album of pop and jazz standards that came out in 2004, when Renee was 14 (!!!) yet somehow delivered a performance that is sultry, knowing, and cheeky.  Renee is also an actress, and just wrapped up a run on the television series The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Listen to Renee here:

7.    Dave Damiani—“Everything Happens To Me” Dave performs regularly around Los Angeles with his small group, his 10-piece orchestra, and his 17-piece orchestra! I saw him recently fronting a big band, and was so impressed; his album is titled “Watch What Happens,” which is perfect since he is definitely a new artist to keep an eye on. Enjoy his mournful crooning about everything from black cats crossing his path to getting the measles in this classic 1940 tune.

8.     Nicole Henry—“Like Someone In Love”  Nicole grew up singing at school and in church, and after doing very well as an actress and voiceover artist she decided to devote herself to a singing career. Yay! Nicole brings her sultry vocals to this jazzy interpretation of a 1944 song by Jimmy van Heusen and Johnny Burke, which was also a hit for artists like Dinah Shore and Bing Crosby. And as a gal who grew up in Florida, I’m happy to say that Nicole lives in Miami…where there are a lot of  beautiful Art Deco buildings.

9.    Jonny Blu—“Mack the Knife” I had the pleasure of seeing Jonny perform at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, and he sang flawlessly in English, Spanish, French, and Chinese! Plus, he performed two songs on the ukulele.  ‘Nuff said.

10. Tamela D’Amico—“One For My Baby”  Tamela has been dubbed “Sinatra in Heels,” and she channels Frank’s emotional delivery in this classic tune. Although, in real life, she is making beautiful music with singer Billy Vera! Tamela is amazingly talented, as she not only sings, but also is an actress and a filmmaker.  In fact, her filmmaking made her a Top 24 finalist in the reality show On The Lot, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett.

Chris Botti and Michael Buble—“”Let There Be Love” I listen to so many Standards that it’s no wonder my young son walked up to a little girl on the playground and introduced himself by saying, “Helloooo, cuckoo!” Five minutes later, they were holding hands and sitting in a swing. Michael sings lines like, “Let there by cuckoos, a lark and a dove,” while Chris plays his trumpet and women swoon.