Pinch me. No, seriously. Pinch me! I cannot believe the cool stuff happening right now! Here's what's up:
I got a phone call yesterday from BILLY STRITCH. He's been out on tour with Liza Minnelli, Linda Lavin, Christine Ebersole, and with Jim Caruso and their now-traveling "Cast Party!" In between shows, Billy found the time to read a Facebook message I sent him last week asking him to appear with us at The Iridium in New York City on Sunday, November 6th. HE SAID YES! I think the thing I am most excited about is that we're finally going to attempt to perform the "Porgy And Bess" duet that Frances Faye (my musical idol) and Mel Torme (Billy's musical idol) recorded on Bethlehem Records in 1956! On stage with us will be our 9-piece "little big band" PLUS the man who orchestrated and arranged that original recording and conducted Torme and Faye and the orchestra, RUSS GARCIA!
Russ turned 95 years old this past April. Shaynee Rainbolt and I decided we wanted to celebrate this wonderful man and his lifelong career as a composer, arranger, and conductor by staging a few concerts in New Zealand, his home for the past 40 years. We took off at the end of March, stopping in Sydney, Australia to do a joint gig at The Basement Jazz Club, then on to New Zealand for sold out shows in Kerikeri and Auckland. I returned home to NYC for my regular monthly gig at The Iridium and Shaynee stayed on for another 10 days and more shows with Russ and the band. We figured that would be our last romp with "Uncle Russell" for a while but not so fast... once we were back in the states, Russ called and said he'd been asked to appear in the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's Big Band Festival in October and he said YES! So, since you only turn 95 once... Shaynee and I decided to put some more shows together here to celebrate even more! We'll be singing with Russ and his big band at the Los Angeles Marriott Hotel near LAX on Sunday, October 23rd at 7pm!
We've put together an all-star 9-piece band for a show at Catalina's Jazz Club in Hollywood on Wednesday, October 26th. We've got a killer Bay Area band together for a show on November 1st at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, California. Then we're bringing Russ and his beautiful, young (she's only turning 80 this year) Italian wife Gina back to New York City with us for the big show at The Iridium on November 6th with Billy and my amazing NYC Little Big Band!
After my phone conversation with Billy, I had to get back to work because the night before, I found out that my special guest star for next week's show at The Iridium (Broadway star KAREN MASON - Mamma Mia, Hairspray, Wonderland, Sunset Blvd, etc.) just booked a gig in Chicago playing "Miss Shields" the teacher in an upcoming production of "A Christmas Story" and has to leave immediately to start rehearsals! Did I panic? Nope. Just swapped out one Broadway Diva Mason for another!
I'm very excited to announce that my NEW special guest star appearing with me and my Little Big Band at The Iridium in NYC this coming Wednesday, October 12th will be LUBA MASON! (Broadway: "The Will Roger's Follies," "Sunset Blvd," "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," Paul Simon's "The Capeman," "Jekyll & Hyde," and as Velma Kelly opposite Brooke Shields as Roxy in "Chicago!"; TV: LAW & ORDER, NYPD BLUE, and NEW YORK UNDERCOVER, and opposite Jeff Goldblum in the psychic detective series, RAINES.) No stranger to the nightclub circuit, Luba most recently completed her KRAZY LOVE TOUR (her latest CD effort) with sold-out shows at LA's famed CATALINA BAR & GRILL, YOSHI'S in Oakland, BLUE NOTE in NY, BLUES ALLEY in DC, WORLD CAFE in Philadelphia and the REGATTA BAR in Boston. She has also headlined at VIBRATO and the CINEGRILL in LA, FEINSTEIN'S, BIRDLAND, B.B.KINGS and THE METROPOLITAN ROOM in NY, and was featured at both the PANAMA JAZZ FESTIVAL and COSTA RICA'S INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL. And now... THE IRIDIUM!
Here's some more info about Luba. First off, she's gorgeous. Second, she can sing like nobody's business. Third, she's one of the sweetest, most generous people I have ever met, in and out of show business. I can't wait to share her with my Little Big Band and a worldwide audience! We're streaming the shows live over the internet at 8PM eastern time via www.LiveStream.com/iridiumlive. So, if you're not in NYC next week, tune in and watch us from the comfort of your own home. Just make sure you have decent speakers hooked up! And if you have friends here in NYC, tell them to come and see us!
I have a couple of special guest star musicians in the band this week as well! RICH ARMSTRONG is currently on tour with Lydia Pense and Coldblood and had a night off between their shows in Washington DC and Boston so he's playing trumpet with us on the 12th! Mark Miller is out of town on tour with the Twyla Tharp/Sinatra show "Come Fly Away," so I asked my pal DOUG BEAVERS to sit in on trombone. Mayra Casales is also out of town on tour so we've got REX BENINCASA filling in on Latin percussion. The rest of the band will be the "usual suspects:" BARRY LEVITT on piano, TOM HUBBARD on bass, RAY MARCHICA on drums, CLIFF LYONS on sax and flute, and SEAN HARKNESS on guitar.
IT'S GOING TO BE AN AMAZING MONTH! 3 great bands in 3 great cities, a beautiful redheaded jazz singer, a Broadway/Recording star, the amazing Billy Stritch and the legendary Russ Garcia. It doesn't get better than this, folks!
Thanks for your love and support as I continue on this journey of magical music making!