Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Bringing Music to the Masses

It has been a while since a cabaret blog post... This one was drafted a few months back, but I never got around to publishing it. It is a bit out of season, but seemed appropriate nonetheless.

I am well aware of how we are taking our cabaret music to diverse audiences during this holiday season. Sheridan has just left on tour, Katia is returning and recovering. Diane and JJ are doing their corporate thing. Oron & Joey finished up a cabaret theatrical piece. Nichole saw the release of a Holiday cd with a New York performance as well. Jen & Kevin are back at Honey, Erin L is cranking it out over in St Paul and Song Sister is on board this coming weekend. So I wanted to note how important it can be to reach an audience with our gift of song.

This video introduces us to Colin Huggins, a piano player in New York with amazing talents that have classically trained roots. He sees himself as a "busker" who were British street musicians at the turn of the century and would entertain for the "shillings" they would receive and were recognized for the "jingley" sound their many buttons would make as they danced. Colin takes a slightly different twist on the concept. He has a Grand Piano that he manages to put on casters and wheels himself into Washington Square Park in NYC. 12 months out of the year! He says "everyone deserves to have a positive, powerful and emotional musical experience." And he does just that, bringing it to the masses. He talks about playing to the emotions of the crowd at hand and that plays directly into our intimate cabaret mantra. Certainly a listening audience.

Just watch the reactions and see how truly genuine his work is. Stunning, Transformative and a Musical Crusader. (after the ad)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Put A Woman in Charge

With election fever coming into the final stretch, here is a post that brings together activism and music. Roseanne Cash is someone who I follow regularly on Twitter. I am not the biggest country music fan, but I truly believe she is an artist who is constantly evolving and has important things to say. Certainly carrying the torch of her father and creating music with heart.
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She has a new album just released "She Remembers Everything" and the lead cut is actually a feature for Keb' Mo where she is practically just back-up vocals. It is called Put A Woman in Charge! Written by Keb' Mo and Beth Nielsen Chapman - the song is an anthem for the #MeToo and Women's movement. It chronicles the pitfalls in our society led my men who are endlessly building technology as well as walls. It is pretty transparent to read the obvious parallels. I love the gruff rhythm of the piece as well as its clever melody with hooks. I'm thinking that maybe it is a new tune for Dorothy & Song Sister to add to their rep???

Rolling Stone feature: Roseanne Cash & Keb' Mo 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

It Must Be THAT Time of the Year!

As we gear up and come into the final stretch of our very own TCCAN Cabaret Fest this weekend at Crooner's, I am throwing out two other features from both New York and Chicago as they celebrate their communities as well.

New York and #MAC certainly have as close as we are ever going to get to a thriving cabaret scene, even though it obviously pales in comparison to the stage & concert genres there. But strong they are - enough to have a festival that spans 4 days for what they call their Cabaret Convention. Theirs is almost entirely performance based with 4 slated rosters. Each night has a theme. Each night has a set of hosts as well. This year Barbara Cook, Rosemary Clooney, Julie Wilson, Jerry Herman & Alan Jay Lerner are being celebrated. And what a star-packed slate of singers! Of course their ticket prices are much steeper at up to $500. There better be some wings and a good bottle of wine for that price.

Then on the very same night as ours, the Chicago Cabaret Professionals are celebrating their 20th Anniversary with what is being billed as a Platinum Party. Their offering sounds very swanky with Awards as well as a double show much like ours. They are calling it a cocktail show that is followed by a full on show at 7 PM. Chicago of course also features some notable names familiar to our following. It is obviously THE weekend to celebrate cabaret.

Monday, October 8, 2018

MAC to School

As we get ready for our own Cabaret Fest here on Oct 21st & 22nd, I thought I would feature a similar situation in New York with the MAC; or Manhattan Assoc. of Cabaret. It appears that the onset of their annual calendar takes place in the Fall just like ours. This is their 4th reiteration of the back to school offering. As I peruse the schedule, it again gives me confidence in the great work we do here in the Twin Cities. They talk about Cabaret 101 or an intro to our world. Then it advances to a Boot Camp. It hits on Song Styling, getting Direction, Songwriting and even Image Consulting. All of these topics are areas we have explored. And just like us, they are self-led by members from the organization. Of course, both days end with a Masterclass as well. So it seems like something for everyone from the novice to the seasoned vet.

I know that the event has just passed, but give it a read to see how similar our missions and content are. Impressive.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Let's Pay the Musicians

Image result for neil diamondBecause I am neither a composer or an artist who receives original royalties, I know very little about licensing. Although I do realize that the digital age has brought an onslaught of copyright issues on all fronts from streaming platforms to dance recitals. Deciding who should be compensated and at what price...

Recently I had stumbled onto some press about the Music Modernizing Act that was just passed  by Congress. For some reason in the labyrinth of American music licensing, music prior to 1972 was not included in the jurisdiction of copyright fees?! So while digital music came into light during the 90's, there has been a continuous gap for artists that were unfortunate to come into and out of fame in dates prior to 1972. This great editorial by Neil Diamond written for the LA Times brings great facts to the masses.

He talks about how he is grateful to still be active as a professional years later, both as a performer & a writer. But all his early hits like Red Red Wine, Holly Holy and the mammoth Sweet Caroline (from 1968) are not eligible for payments because of the arbitrary 1972 cutoff. Artists from the Motown, Stax and Atlantic labels vaults would also be in those same situations. All those One Hit Wonders from the Oldies era collect nothing every time one of their fortunate hits is played via Spotify while you are shopping at Trader Joe's! In these days when everyone seemingly wants a piece of the pie, this is sad. Diamond points out that handfuls of these artists are the ones who should be able to use funds in retirement or purchase basic health care. Please read the entire opinion. It puts him a noble light whether you enjoy his music or not.

Neil Diamond - LA Times OpEd 
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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Unusual Voices in Cabaret

We often say that it is not always the strongest voice that makes a great evening of cabaret, but the authentic personality the shines through. These two recent features of "celebrities" caught my attention and seem to speak to this thought.

The first comes via Tony Danza - retro television star from "Who's the Boss?" He was a late bloomer in terms of musical theater savvy. But I have to note that I saw him 2 years ago in the Broadway bomb Honeymoon in Vegas and he certainly won me over then. He is a throw back to old school vaudeville like Christopher Walken with his modest tap dancing skills and ukulele strumming. He comes off as both smug and as cuddly as a teddy bear. In the interview, he speaks about the gift of playing an intimate room. When he talks about his connection to the classic American Standards - he totally gets what it means to make a song his own. Doing his thing!

The second is Kathleen Turner. While her voice is unique - one would normally think of it akin to Bette Davis or Lauren Bacall. Not a finely tuned instrument that would interpret pure jazz. The title of the set itself, Finding My Voice, tackles the elephant in the room before she even sings. But the review talks about her choice of great songs as a starting point for everyone to jump on board. I have no doubt that her patter is both sassy and on point. She has never been one to mince her words or wear her dirty laundry in public. So sharing it in a small space should be very comfortable for her. She has many stories to share.

Cabaret Scenes: Kathleen Turner - Finding My Voice

So when we worry about not having the perfect set of vocal chords, that is only the icing on the cake. Know what it is you want to say and build a great set to sell it. Surprises come in unusual packages sometimes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


It seems many of our cabaret conversations center around many of the great ladies of our genre. There are always shout outs to Barbara Cook, Mabel Mercer, Marilyn Maye.... the list is predictable. So being a male, it is welcome to stumble across something that has a slant specific to the material that speaks a bit more to me.

I was not aware of Todd Murray until just this week. He is an L.A. native and as handsome as they come with dashing movie-star looks. But what intrigues me more than that - is that he has a lush baritone voice which is a rarity. In these days of screaming Broadway tenors that are belting out high A's & B's to meet the needs of pop standards. He has more in common with classic tones like Robert Goulet or Gordon McCrae.

His current show that he is peddling is a concept called Croon. He goes into detail about the original form of the word; it was a term that came to life with the invention the microphone as a tool for singer amplification. Instead of having to belt over an entire orchestra to fill a concert arena, with the addition of a mic in the 1920's, a singer could ease back and play with all kinds of different qualities to give color to songs. I think I had assumed it came upon us a bit later with the crooners at the tail end of the Big Band movement. Names more expected like Frank Sinatra or Mel Torme. Todd's show goes way back to the vaudeville days and continues into the present day with his own unique cabaret spin on a number of standards. Looking at his tour calendar, it looks like he was close enough to us here in Hastings last November. Here is hoping he makes a return where I will gladly check him out.


Monday, April 9, 2018

True French Cabaret

Charles Aznavour must be as close to Ground Zero for the origins of cabaret in our lifetime. He is certainly the last living legend that truly "lived in the day!" He was discovered over 70 years ago by Edith Piaf, the grandest chanteuse of them all and has spent his entire career performing in small rooms and concert halls across the globe. This glorious retrospective begins talking about his ability to transform from his wiry 90 year old frame into an icon when he takes the stage and finds his light. He speaks about his touring, a new album, but the centerpiece are the 12,000 songs he has written over his life. Yes - that is a correct number!

Old hand: Aznavour at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959

As does any cabaret artist, the work is often about revealing glimpses of oneself. In regard to the above mentioned songs; “everyone mistook them and said, ‘Ah, you are telling your story.’ It was not true. But after years, I found that finally – without knowing it, without trying to – I had written my life.” He starts with reference to his Armenian roots, parents en route to America, but getting stranded in Paris where he was ultimately born. Being from a musical family, he began dancing but by age 15 he was singing in the nightclubs of Montparnasse. Despite success across continents at a young age, he quoted “My shortcomings are my voice, my height, my gestures, my lack of culture and education, my frankness and my lack of personality.” What prompted this brutal self-analysis? “I wanted to know who I was. Before presenting yourself to the public, you have to know who you are. Your faults and your abilities – and often you should keep the faults, which can be very spectacular, and avoid some of the good things. Even now, I’m in search of who I am.” 

These are all remarkable quotes for cabaret artists on our ques to reveal ourselves on stage. What stories to tell, what events in our lives we want to embellish, what makes us unique. He has years of wisdom and also the spirit of a much younger man.

UK Telegraph: Charles Aznavour - a Special Character 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Darling, This Is Cabaret

Source credit on this one goes to Nichole, who shared it on our private Facebook group. But I thought it spoke so incredibly well to who and what we are at TCCAN, that is deserved a share to our entire Facebook following.

The article is published on a digital magazine called W42ST that blogs about happenings in the Big Apple. This particular post is a twist on how they are presenting their monthly cabaret calendar. Instead of just listing dates and places for the featured artist; each one gets a few short paragraphs to expound on their inspiration for cabaret. And each memoir is a perfect bit of cabaret patter through their unique tale. The lead story by Jim Caruso talks about his early days in the choruses of Dallas TX and how a detour at a small place called the Baja opened a new door to his career. Both Megan Hilty and Joie Bianco talk about the transformative power of seeing Marilyn Maye on stage. Marilyn herself is performing this month and takes it back a notch further to the very old times and the influence of Shecky Greene in Las Vegas. KT Sullivan speaks of the intimacy of the Gardenia Room and seeing Broadway icons like Donna McKechnie and Pamela Myers revealing their true stories outside of their successful long runs. Jane Monheit speaks about the passion of Brazilian music via Ivan Lins.
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But the common themes among them all, are the tenets we speak about each and every time we see each other. They talk of "strange ballads with tons of tears and quirky patter," an "Intimate experience - just a microphone, some stories and lots of songs," "Taking an audience on a journey." Key words like wit, connection, Standards, intimate, personality, vulnerability. It brings me joy to know that we truly comprehend who it is we are and what we are trying to accomplish as a network of great artists here in the Twin Cities.

Read the full article here: W42ST - This Is Cabaret

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Father & Son Sinatra

A small piece of fluff here to share - but sometimes that is needed. We talk constantly about the legacy of the Great American Songbook and its iconic performers from Ella Fitzgerald to Tony Bennett. And though we are always exploring new material, new writers and sometimes even finding our own voice - it remains that our ranks are a vital part of passing this heritage forward.

Now add to that the unusual paradox of singing in our cars! We have all belted out favorite songs with the windows down and a friend in the passenger seat. Showtunes and pop standards. Radio or 8 Track. There is not one of us that is not a guilty participant. With #JamesCorden and his raging Carpool Karaoke it is even more a part of our current culture.

So how adorable is this father and son duet of a Sinatra & Sammy Davis classic? Meet Matt Clayton and son Archie! Cheeky, Fuzzy and Damn Entertaining.

Source: Father And Son Belt Out Frank Sinatra Duet In The Car by Caters_News

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thank You Evan Hansen

I know that I am drawn to all things musical theater and that certainly impacts my choices in my cabaret work. More-so than standards, I think it is because the songs often are small stories in themselves and almost always have the roots of a character to dig into. Which makes them not only an easy "sell" but gives me a window into the world of "that song."

So this share is a new collage from the huge success of Pasek & Paul's Dear Evan Hansen. The show is speaking to a generation of youth that feel alienated and are trying to connect somewhere in the virtual world since they are not finding that connection in their real lives. So it is fitting that this compilation is assembled from duets across the globe. The clip is edited and sponsored by the show itself. But I love that it shows countless possibilities of singers who are making it their own and interpreting it with their authentic spin, whether singing to their puppy, a stuffed animal or a special partner.

I know we often cling to the Great American Songbook of the past, but I am certain that the current generation of musical theater composers will generate another century of anthems that will be remembered for many of the same reasons.