Thursday, April 17, 2014

Radio Deluxe

We had just talked about this marvelous show at our last workshop and how it was not possible to access past episodes. Alas; on a new search, there is a website now where you can find all shows and stream them at your leisure.

If you are not familiar with it, Radio Deluxe is a syndicated radio show hosted by jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and his wife, actress Jessica Molaskey. Together they broadcast a 2 hour weekly show from their living room in NYC. I am an avid fan of both. Certainly his recordings are frequent and easy to find. But she has a fabulous voice and can be found doing both musical theater as well as studio recordings of her own. Although the show prefaces itself as a Jazz program, it is much more than that. I find it a cabaret show with great dialogue between the two of them along with tremendous insights on classic gems and also an exposure to great new talent and material. It fits all the criteria we look for in our cabaret work; intimate, great music variety and always a story angle.

Their new webpage gives a blurb comparing them to a contemporary Louis Prima and Keely Smith which is a flattering choice. Last night I chose a recent episode which highlighted an interview with Jason Robert Brown and his material which I adore. Today is a show of Sexy Songs including Peggy Lee, Ella, Kurt Elling and Nat King Cole. Each episode gives a synopsis, some are composer driven, others have themes. But on the stream it gives complete track listing for each tune with the artist. What's even better - the stream plays without commercials or station identification. If you are seeking out new material to sing.....  you won't find a better resource. Guests abound. It will become my new work staple! And I am also adding it to our links list!

Radio Deluxe

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pitter Patter

This is a follow-up recap of our recent Education workshop that was all about Patter composition. Les and Heidi had done some great research that was enlightening for us and a great conversation starter.

He began with both the roots and meaning of the word and we found that it differs much from the semantics that we use it in a cabaret setting. By definition; it is just "meaningless chatter," "gibberish," and "talking at length without saying anything significant." All of these are in complete opposition to our intent as performers. It harkens back to the early stage days of vaudeville where it was likely meant as filler between acts to stall for time.

Next came a very pointed critique of patter and how it relates to cabaret work that we strive for now; this is from critic Roy Sander who writes for the Manhattan Association of Cabaret. "Time was when cabaret was a performing arts form in which audience members sat at tables and the people on stage had a job to do: to entertain the audience. Period. Rather simple, eh?  Alas, at some point during the past decade or so, cabaret took a wrong turn. Today, a growing number of people, especially recent entrants into the field, seem to think that cabaret is something else—some kind of mushy, touchy-feely group-therapy session, in which we are all there to share in the performer’s life and feelings." Roy goes on quite extensively in a tirade about the lack of need for any of this sort of patter. A complete link to his query "It's Not About You" is below.
Sander - It's Not About You 

All of this generated much reaction, especially from our veteran members that attended the Yale Conference which is founded on the exact opposite point of view. Unless you are exposing yourself and being authentic in your storytelling, it is not true cabaret. We continue to have very good open conversations on what balance to follow. Icons like Mabel Mercer use little if any dialogue at all. Bobby Short plays the piano and only introduces historical context about his songs. We talked about the fine line between rehearsing your patter, keeping it spontaneous, and then being able to ad lib without hitting roadblocks. Some of us navigate this slippery slope differently. Our recent showcase challenged the notions of narrative while being true to patter by tying story into song - not necessarily by the same person. I even brought up the concept of performing an entire cabaret set as an alter-ego like Bette Midler has done with "Delores Delago" - or we recently saw our own Barbara do with a ukelele and hula-hoop. How about the stretching the truth to make a story more interesting? - Sure! All of these push the limits of what we expect and define as cabaret. TCCAN is trying to establish parameters to follow while also giving freedom for each member to be genuine and unique. All food for thought!

Monday, April 7, 2014

the American Songbook

the American Songbook goes hand in hand with what we generally think of as cabaret material. Yes, we can draw from all corners of the musical spectrum, but the essence of what we sing is usually bundled up in the classic composers from Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers, Arlen.... what is known as the American Songbook. I myself am doing a mini-set of Irving Berlin for this month's salon.

So Jen has found a great new resource nugget for us. It appears to be a new series offered on local PBS affiliate out of New Jersey. The American Songbook at NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Ctr @ Newark.) So far there have been only 6 taped episodes in 2014, but if you have an hour of extra time, it is a great alternative to Netflix. It is marketed as a sort of Inside the Actors Studio that mixes concert performance with a simple piano or trio alongside moderated audience conversations. These are hosted by Ted Chapin who I am very familiar with via the Rodgers & Hammerstein Foundation and he campaigns heavily for music preservation. Most of the artists are from across the river in NYC like Marin Mazie, Rebecca Luker et al. But it also offers up more recent work by Motown's Ashford & Simpson as well as older chestnuts like Sandy Stewart (wife of Moose Charlap.)

It is another blurred line between cabaret, concert and the jazz stage - but always worth a look to see what else is out there.

NJ Public Television