"Having never turned to Broadway musical theater as a source of material for a jazz singer, I was overwhelmed by the choices. Artful music, lushly crafted lyrics, complex and layered stories lay before me, intensely satisfying to my musical palate. These riches inspired many a jazz interpretation by the likes of André Previn, Shelly Manne, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, Irene Kral and of course Ella Fitzgerald." —Janis Siegel, from the liner notes
Janis Siegel, one of greatest harmony singers of her (or any) generation, once again delights audiences with Sketches of Broadway, knockin' 'em dead with the hottest ticket in town. Siegel's third Telarc release spotlights stylish readings of Broadway nuggets by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim and others.
"I did a lot of research," Siegel says. "And looked at a wide range of Broadway material. I wanted to choose songs that would work outside of a theatrical context—great tunes that would work within a jazz framework. I think of this record as the companion to I Wish You Love, my album of songs from the Brill Building era, because I also grew up listening to Broadway tunes."
Produced and arranged by Gil Goldstein, Sketches of Broadway offers eleven showstoppers, including the soaring opener "Show Me" (from My Fair Lady), "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" (Oklahoma), "My Best Beau" (Mame) and "I Got the Sun in the Morning" (Annie Get Your Gun). Among the album's treasures are rare looks at Stephen Sondheim's "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" (Follies), the Vernon Duke and Ogden Nash collaboration "Born Too Late" (The Littlest Revue), Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's "It Never Was You" (Knickerbocker Holiday), and the poignant closer "Make Someone Happy" (Do Re Mi).
Sketches of Broadway sparkles with invention as Siegel puts on a virtuoso display. She provides an intimate counterpoint to her own voice on a reading of Stephen Sondheim's "Sorry/Grateful" (Company), creates backup vocals to stunning effect on Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "It's a Woman's Prerogative" (St. Louis Woman), and again on the sultry medley of "Out of My Dreams" (Oklahoma)/"I Have Dreamed" (The King and I).
An equally exciting all-star cast has been assembled for Sketches of Broadway. Siegel is joined by bassist John Patitucci, drummer Antonio Sanchez, guitarist Romero Lubambo, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and keyboardist Goldstein (who doubles on accordion). Bringing their craftsmanship to bear throughout, the band fashions one elegant frame after another for the singer. "Gil and Romero created texture on some of the more Brazilian-flavored tunes," says Siegel, "and used that texture as almost a third instrument."
Although Janis Siegel is best known for her work with The Manhattan Transfer—one of the most popular vocal ensembles in contemporary music—the Brooklyn-born vocalist has also built a successful solo career, beginning with 1982's Experiment in White, continuing with 1987's Grammy-nominated At Home, two intimate collaborations with pianist Fred Hersch (Short Stories and Slow Hot Wind), and 1999's The Tender Trap.
Siegel signed with Telarc and released I Wish You Love (CD-83551) in 2002 and Friday Night Special (CD-83566) in 2003. I Wish You Love put a jazz spin on such Brill Building hits as Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Go Away Little Boy," Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "Just a Little Lovin'" and Pat Ballard's "Mr. Sandman," while Friday Night Special matched Siegel's clear, buoyant voice with an unusual selection of songs and an outstanding organ/tenor band. Both discs were produced by Joel Dorn, with contributions from top jazz musicians like Joey DeFrancesco, Houston Person, David "Fathead" Newman, Tom Harrell and Cedar Walton. Sketches of Broadway is Siegel's eighth solo outing overall.
Siegel resides in Manhattan with her son, Gabriel. In addition to her work with The Transfer, she continues to enjoy considerable success through her solo career and diverse collaborative efforts, including live work with Japanese singer/pianist Akiko Yano; performing and recording as a member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra; participating in a sold-out Tribute To Ella Fitzgerald at the Hollywood Bowl; and singing in an all-star ensemble of new works by Cy Coleman and Alan and Marilyn Bergman at the Kennedy Center. Following the release of Sketches of Broadway, Siegel will embark on an American tour with performances scheduled at major festivals and jazz clubs.
Sketches of Broadway beautifully showcases Janis Siegel's musical versatility. Whether it's Broadway show tunes or interesting obscurities, each song sounds newly written in her hands. With a unique combination of standout material and vocal prowess, Sketches of Broadway is destined to be a hit.