March 28, 2017

Mick Archer’s Piano Bar column featuring Elizabeth Doyle in Chicago Jazz Magazine

Mick Archer has written a lovely article about my encounter with late and great jazz pianist, Marian McPartland and included some of my recollections about playing in piano bars.

http://www.chicagojazz.com/piano-bar-elizabeth-doyle

Frank Sinatra Jr., some undersung praise

One of the personalities whom I encountered at the Pump Room was Frank Sinatra Jr. who like his father enjoyed the atmosphere and food at this famous supper club.

One night when Frank Jr. was dining at the Pump Room, he introduced himself and gave me advice on how to improve the stage lighting. I found him to be friendly, gracious and helpful.

Another time, he and his big band had been rained out of a Grant Park outdoor concert so he took the whole crew for dinner at the Ambassador East eatery. A few of my musical colleagues played for him and said working with him was a good gig. He used great arrangements and knew what he wanted, having been his father’s music director and conductor starting in 1988.

Frank Jr. had a lovely voice that was similar to his father’s, but comparisons always pointed out that he did not have his dad’s magic.

He had enough of the entertainment gene however to keep singing, acting, songwriting and conducting from 1963 until his death on March 2016. Look up his bio on wikipedia to see how involved he stayed with music and tv projects until his death.

His list of performing venues was impressive too, up until the end, including the Royal Albert Hall in London and Town Hall in New York City.

I’m thinking kind thoughts about this man who sometimes found it challenging to live in the shadow of his famous father on this his birthday week.

Leonard Cohen at Chicago Theater: May 2009

<img class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-4400" src="http://www.elizabethdoylemusic viagra schweiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-300×168.jpg” alt=”leonard-cohen-e1474508147892″ width=”300″ height=”168″ srcset=”http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-300×168.jpg 300w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-768×431.jpg 768w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-148×83.jpg 148w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-31×17.jpg 31w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-38×21.jpg 38w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-383×215.jpg 383w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892.jpg 873w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />In 2009, Leonard Cohen was touring with singer/co-songwriter Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters with a kick-ass multi-cultural band consisting of bass, Hammond B3 Accordion, 12-string, electric, pedal and steel guitars, bandurria, laud, percussion, sax, dobro, clarinet and keyboards. The band was tight and on fire.

At the Chicago Theater, I sat with fellow Cohen devotee, Dan Stetzel and we marveled at the arrangements, the musicians and back-up vocals, but most notably the electric performance from the then septuagenarian Leonard Cohen.

The concert was over 3 hours with Cohen’s energy never showing any signs of flagging. In fact, he seemed to be physically possessed by his material as he danced and gesticulated with wild abandon.

From the song Dance Me To the End of Love as the opener, through his numerous compositions, to Whither Thou Goest as the closer, this was one of the most thrilling concerts I have ever experienced. And this from a man with a voice characterized by sandpaper, whiskey and bad Tuvan throat-singing. His lyrics were at times dark, but the spirit he exuded was transcendantly positive and warmly inclusive. The prolonged ovation at the end of the show was an outpouring of love between performer and audience.

Cohen and Bob Dylan have been our poet-troubadours throughout the turbulent 60’s to the present day. Both have continued writing and touring as they climbed the decades.

Besides his large catalogue of songs, Cohen published books of poetry and two novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers. We are indeed a little poorer today without the prospect of more wise and wonderful words from Canadian Leonard Cohen.

An interesting web site with much Cohen info:
http://cohencentric.com/2

Chicago Beach bar/restaurants from Oak Street to Hollywood on Lake Michigan

This is the perfect time to check out some of the park beach houses and food/bar spots.

Oak Street Beach Food + Drink Talk about a great view of the lake, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. You must be at the Oak Street Beach sipping a frozen margarita and munching on a chicken mole taco or a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.

http://www.oakstreetbeach.com/

Castaways at 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive features DJs and live bands to go along with your cold brewskies, your jerk fish tacos or Castaways signature burger.
Then again, you could go fancy and order the Riva Shrimp Chopped salad or the blackened grouper sandwich.

http://www.castawayschicago.com/

Bacino’s at 248 W. Diversey, west of the Diversey Driving Range, an Italian Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, burgers and gelato.

http://www.bacinos.com/DIVERSEY/contact.html

The Dock at Montrose Beach, at 200 W. Montrose Harbor Drive, with a liquor license, full-fledged restaurant and live music.

http://thedockatmontrosebeach.com/

Nacho Mama’s Burrito Bar at 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive, Osterman Beach House. One of the newer lakefront venues with non-alcoholic beverages like hibiscus tea, ginger beer, coconut water and, you guessed it, nachos.

http://www.nachomamasbeachbar.com/new-page/

I know there are beach bar/food businesses north and south of the ones mentioned above. Please let me know if you have any favorite spots along Lake Michigan in the city.

If/Then: Contemporary musical at Oriental Theater

You still have a couple of weeks left to see the national tour of If/Then currently playing at Chicago’s gorgeous Oriental Theater. Fans of the 2009 Broadway musical, Next To Normal will want to catch If/Then since the same composer and lyricist/book-writer, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, crafted both shows.

Jackie Burns plays Elizabeth, a role originated by Idina Menzel on Broadway. Burns sings with the same edgy belting sound for which Menzel is noted so it is no small wonder that Burns also played the role of Elphaba in Wicked after Menzel initially wowed Broadway audiences.

The production is inventive and swift-moving with a crack band in the pit. The choreography is modern and inventive. The singing actors in the cast are uniformly strong with stand-out Anthony Rapp reprising his Broadway role as Elizabeth’s nerdy activist friend. My two favorite songs were sung by Matthew Hydzik playing boyfriend/husband Josh: You Never Know in Act One and Act Two’s Hey Kid, a contemporary musical scene reminiscent of Soliloquy from Carousel.

The show’s major structural device sets it apart from other musicals but provides its major weakness as well. Throughout the show, we see Elizabeth alternate between the path taken by Liz and that taken by Beth. Several people around me were asking one another, “what’s happening now?” I observed the same confusion in Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years.

Still, if you like contemporary musical theater, this may be just the ticket. http://www.chicago-theater.com/theaters/oriental-theatre/if-then.php

Rush tickets are sometimes available for $25 before show time at the Oriental Theater box office. Hot tix is also featuring discount tickets: http://www.hottix.org/

Liz Carroll: Irish Music Fiddler and Composer

I really should be writing about Irish fiddler Liz Carroll around St. Patrick’s Day, but having just met her, I couldn’t wait until next March. She was recently honored by Lawyers for the Creative Arts and I was privileged to hear a couple of numbers demonstrating her musical prowess at a recent LCA luncheon. That woman can make the violin literally sing and dance.

Although based in Chicago, Carroll travels the world promoting Irish music through her impeccable performances and her lovely compositions.

She composed and recorded music for last spring’s Art Institute of Chicago exhibit, Ireland: Crossroad of Art and Design, 1690-1840. Check out the first recording on this link for a delightful sample of her musical work in that project.

https://soundcloud.com/liz-carroll/textiles-glassmusical-instruments-fancy-work-planxty-chas-bunworth-rose-kathleens-slip-jig

Whether playing solo or with instruments like the guitar, mandolin or harp, Liz Carroll immediately makes you think of the Irish music heard in pubs, in churches or in dance halls. I found it hard to stay in my seat at the Palmer House’s Empire Room as I tapped my toes to the infectious melodies and rhythms.

Here is another live performance of hers on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NReNvV5P0FA

Fellow creative professionals may want to check out her web site, it being one of the most comprehensive sites I have seen for covering the different aspects of one’s artistic business model.

http://www.lizcarroll.com

Don’t wait until next St. Paddy’s Day to check out her performance schedule or recordings.

John Eskola, Chicago actor/vocalist has apartment fire

John Eskola lost much of his apartment in a fire started by an electrical wiring problem. His extensive music library was the first casualty of the fire. Friends, colleagues and generous strangers have rallied to help John move to a new apartment.
Chicago firemen rescued John’s beloved cat, Vicky while they put out the fire.

A little background info on John Eskola: he is a founding member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals and Choir Director and Chief Cantor for weddings, funerals and masses at Assumption Catholic Church (River North) and throughout the Chicago area. A member of Actor’s Equity, he toured internationally as a cast member of the musical Evita, and was in The House of Martin Guerre and The Visit with Chita Rivera at the Goodman Theater.

Members of the cabaret community have been particularly generous to the John Eskola Apartment Fire Fund. For more details or to donate, go to:

https://www.youcaring.com/john-eskola-445391

If you feel so inclined, please share the link with your social media contacts. Karma, as they say, is circular.

John is sifting through his music library. Does anyone want to hear something by Noel Coward? Or possibly Smoke Gets In Your Eyes?

Alan Bergman turns 90

I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a stage with Alan Bergman back in 1998. He was in town to see his musical Queen of the Stardust Ballroom which was being produced at Lincolnshire Marriott. He wrote the lyrics for the musical with his wife Marilyn Bergman along with composer Billy Goldenberg and bookwriter Jerome Kass.

He graciously agreed to emcee and perform in a showcase of new musical material sponsored by the Theater Building and presented at the Arts Club. Although it was exciting to have Mr. Bergman introduce me to the audience, it was even more gratifying to see him perform his own material. His slow and emotionally engaging version of The Windmills of Your Mind was unforgettable.

After the show, I raced to my regular vocal job at the Pump Room. Who should arrive to catch a set but Alan Bergman and his accompanist.

Happy birthday to an impeccable lyricist and gracious individual!

 

Rich Daniels, conductor, civic leader, composer

I have long wanted to profile Chicago music power house, Rich Daniels and his City Lights Orchestra. I first met him at the Fairmont Hotel when it was in full musical swing. The Moulin Rouge was the hotel’s impressive show room featuring name entertainment like Tony Bennett or Peggy Lee and the occasional touring big band.

I happened to be performing in an elegant room across the Fairmont lobby called the Metropole. There was a wonderful interplay between the two rooms; I would sneak into the Moulin Rouge and catch acts and the show musicians would take their breaks in my room. One evening, I peaked into the show room and saw a guy named Rich Daniels playing the occasional saxophone solo while leading a top notch group of brass, wind, percussion and string instruments known as the City Lights Orchestra. I was mightily impressed.

His City Lights Orchestra has been the “go-to” band in Chicago for accompanying entertainers such as Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Garth Brooks, Rosemary Clooney, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Michael Buble and David Foster.

Daniels composed music for the pilot of Emmy-award winning tv show “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammer and has been the music director for the hit Fox tv show, “Empire.” He has also been traveling the country conducting orchestras performing a “Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration.”

His charitable work has been impressive as well. He was the former board chairman of The Mercy Home For Boys and Girls and is current board chairman for the DePaul University School of Music. He also serves on the boards of the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago Federation of  Musicians. I have included a photo of the City Lights Orchestra performing a tribute to the late Cardinal George.

As a history buff, I also note that Rich Daniels has organized musical programs that feature the words of U. S. Presidents. When does this fellow sleep?

I count myself an admirer and friend of this happily married, father of four who is a remarkable Chicago musical treasure.

Charles Troy, Great American Songbook historian

I had heard the name Charles Troy within the Chicago Cabaret community for quite some time, but it wasn’t until recently that I got to meet him and see him later that week in performance.

Was I ever impressed! Charles does impeccable research and puts together video/lecture presentations that make use of projected lyrics, historic video, recordings and photos coupled with his polished speaking ability to relate the stories behind the songs.
His topics run the gamut from Broadway shows and movies to individual composers and lyricists with the Great American Songbook being the linchpin of his creations.

On occasion, he has guest singers that add a couple of “live” numbers to his shows. Vocalist Jeff Dean guested in the recent Troy show on George M. Cohan; Judy Rossignuolo-Rice and Bernie Rice will guest star in Troy’s program, “Jerome Kern and the Birth of the American Musical” on October 7 at Skokie Theater, 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm show times.

If you have not seen him yet, do yourself a favor and check out one of his shows. Like me, you just may become one of his new groupies.

Here are some of his other upcoming shows:

Boy Meets Girl/Boy Kills Boy/Girl Goes Mad, September 2 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm, Skokie Theatre, 7924 N. Lincoln Avenue, Skokie. $15.

The Creation of Oklahoma!, September 9, 6:30 pm. Aurora Public Library, Santorini Library, 101 S. River Street, Aurora. Free.

Cole Porter’s Great Depression, September 25 at 10 am. North Shore Senior Center, 161  Northfield Road, Northfield, IL. $15 non-members. (He presented this show in June at the annual Cole Porter Festival in Peru, Indiana.)

For more information:
http://www.charlestroy.com/Site/homepage.html