The guy who first hit the charts with his rendition of “Just The Way You Look Tonight” on the Movie Soundtrack of “Father Of The Bride” has been producing and churning out hits for countless super singers (as well as himself) for decades. Now Steve Tyrell is coming out with one that as he says, “I’ve always wanted to do”. The Songs or Ray Charles…. It’s been said that when Ray Charles coughs it’s in rhythm, well when Tyrell smiles (as only he can) it’s always in rhythm and his new album is also gonna put a big smile on your face….Speaking of Tyrell smiles, I was there the night Steve put smiles of the faces of Michael Bloomberg and Henry Kissinger who came to his show at Cafe Carlyle.
The release dates for his new album “Shades of Ray” are Sept. 24 digitally and Oct. 15 physically
Here are the Liner notes
“When a voice can come through the radio, make you stop what you’re doing, and touch your soul, that’s powerful,” says Steve Tyrell. “And that’s what happened to me the first time I heard Ray Charles. There was nothing he couldn’t sing—blues, soul, country, standards—and growing up in Texas, I’d sit in my room for hours on end just listening to Brother Ray.”
Years later, Tyrell would find himself doing the exact same thing, hunkering down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and playing Charles’ records on repeat as he put the finishing touches on his thirteenth studio album, Shades of Ray (The Songs of Ray Charles). Recorded in New York and LA, the collection honors the late soul icon’s towering legacy, but it’s no ordinary tribute. For starters, the record actually includes Ray Charles himself, who appears here on a previously unreleased duet with Tyrell, as well as a song Steve wrote specifically for Ray and Diana Ross. Tyrell’s interpretations of the classics, meanwhile, are both deeply reverent and boldly original, with sweeping, cinematic arrangements that land somewhere between the lush orchestration of the Great American Songbook and the old school rhythm and blues he cut his teeth on growing up in Houston. The result is a singular, wide-ranging take on one of the most revelatory artists of the 20th century, a joyful, exuberant celebration not only of Charles’ well-established place in the American pantheon, but of his profoundly personal impact on Tyrell’s own life and work.
“Sometimes when you meet your idols, they don’t turn out to be what you expected,” Steve reflects. “But my experiences with Ray were everything I could have hoped for and more. Hearing our voices together and producing and writing some songs for him was a thrill of a lifetime.”
An accomplished artist, producer, and composer who’s collaborated with everyone from Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt to Dolly Parton and Stevie Wonder, Tyrell toyed with the idea of paying tribute to Charles for much of his career, but it wasn’t until the coronavirus pandemic ground much of the live music industry to a halt that he was finally able to complete the project, wrapping up recording in 2020 around what would have been Charles’ 90th birthday. While Shades of Ray boasts an all-star cast of musicians including keyboardist Chuck Leavell (The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones) and late trumpeter Lew Soloff (Blood, Sweat & Tears, Gil Evans), as well as orchestrations from legendary arrangers Alan Broadbent (Paul McCartney, Diana Krall) and Bob Mann (Rod Stewart, James Taylor), it’s Tyrell who shines brightest here, his rich, captivating voice infusing the songs with the kind of warmth and vitality that can only come from a lifelong relationship with the music.
“Ray’s versions of these songs are so timeless that there’s no point in trying to copy him,” Tyrell explains. “What I tried to do is take the influence he’s had on me over the years and let that inspire performances straight from my heart.”
Tyrell’s honest, intimate approach proves to be an ideal lens through which to explore Charles’ wonderfully diverse catalog, and the Shades of Ray tracklist runs the full emotional and stylistic gamut, from punchy, horn-fueled funk and big band swing to tender torch songs and romantic ballads. Perhaps the album’s most memorable moment, though, comes from its bonus track, “Curiosity,” a previously unreleased recording that features Tyrell and Charles dueting on the theme song to the 1989 CBS series Snoops. The tune was one Tyrell had written specifically for Charles, and he recalls the recording session (from which Shades of Ray draws its cover art) as if it happened yesterday.
“I played Ray the track in the studio and he just said, ‘Beautiful man, beautiful,’ which was the greatest thing I’d ever heard, especially since this was the first time he’d ever agreed to sing a title song for a TV series, and I wrote it,” says Tyrell. “We had to re-write some of the lyrics to match changes that had been made to the show’s title sequence, so Ray had me sing him each re-written line one at a time so he could sing them back to me. I had a smile on my face for months after that. Can you imagine how thrilling it was to sing my words to Ray Charles and have him sing them back to me?”
Though his work with Charles was particularly meaningful, brushes with greatness weren’t uncommon for Tyrell, who helped shepherd nearly a dozen GRAMMY-winning albums and songs during his career as a producer, contributing to big hits with such legendary artists as Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, and Aaron Neville, just to name a few.
“My career has had a mind of its own,” laughs Tyrell. “I always loved music, but even though I’ve worked with so many incredible people, it was never my intention to become an artist myself and release my own albums.”
Born and raised in Houston, Tyrell began his unlikely odyssey through the music industry as a teenager, when he took a job working with a local distributor handling releases for labels like Atlantic and Motown. Tyrell’s work promoting records eventually led him to New York City, where, at the age of 19, he landed a gig with Florence Greenberg’s seminal Scepter Records label. As a promotion director, staff producer, and A&R man, Tyrell would oversee sessions by everyone from Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick to Chuck Jackson and The Shirelles, work with legendary engineer Phil Ramone, and sign Ronnie Milsap and B.J. Thomas to their first record deals.
From Scepter, Tyrell moved to LA, where he would garner multiple Emmy nominations while supervising and writing music for film and television projects helmed by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer, Steven Soderbergh, and Aaron Spelling. Oftentimes while working on a production, Tyrell would record a reference track using his own vocals, only to later hear from producers and directors that they’d like to keep his version in the final cut. It was always flattering when it happened, but the idea of pursuing a singing career still failed to register on Tyrell’s radar until 1991, when his performance of “The Way You Look Tonight” in Father of the Bride landed him his own record deal with Atlantic, who released his debut album, A New Standard, to widespread critical and commercial success. Tyrell’s subsequent offerings would go on to follow suit, with 11 of his 12 studio releases landing in the Top 5 on the Billboard Jazz Chart (including his most recent album, A Song For You, which hit #1 in 2018). Those recordings would garner Tyrell invitations to sing everywhere from Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl to The White House and Buckingham Palace, earn him performances with world-renowned orchestras like The Boston Pops and The Nashville Symphony, and help land him his own drive time, daily radio show on KJAZZ 88.1 FM in Los Angeles. When Bobby Short passed away in 2005, Tyrell was asked to take over the prestigious holiday residency at New York’s Café Carlyle, where his audience on any given night might include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rod Stewart, Sting, David Foster, Katherine McPhee, Kristin Chenoweth, Al Roker, Katie Couric, Candice Bergen, Frankie Valli, or Neil Young. The Los Angeles Times proclaimed that “Tyrell has one of the most gratifying Cinderella stories in present day popular music,” while The New Yorker hailed him as a “gruff voiced charmer,” and The New York Times raved that his “sizable voice filters Louis Armstrong through Ray Charles and Dr. John.”
“Even when I was singing the standards, I always came from a bluesier place than some of the other artists I loved and respected like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett,” says Tyrell, “and that’s because of Ray. I remember listening to his records early on and thinking, ‘If I ever made an album, that’s the way I’d want to do it.’”
And so Shades of Ray brings everything full circle for Tyrell. Listen closely and you’ll hear a through line in these recordings, one that stretches back not only to Tyrell’s debut as an artist (which he recorded for the same label as Charles, and at the urging of Ahmet Ertegun, the same man who’d originally signed him), but to his boyhood in Texas, when he first heard Ray’s soulful voice come pouring out of the radio in his parents’ kitchen. It’s impossible not to feel the appreciation and respect flowing through these tracks, to sense the genuine admiration and gratitude behind each performance. In the end, Shades of Ray isn’t just an homage to Ray Charles, it’s a heartfelt thank you for a lifetime of joy and inspiration.
– Anthony D’Amato
Have You Begun Dreaming of It Yet? (PART I)
What else – White Christmas, of course!
December is jampacked with great entertainment, so I hope you’re caught up on your shopping, because there are lots of treats for you this month. Here’s a stockingful of events that you shouldn’t miss.
If you’re looking for probably the most glamorous gift of the season, drop by Doyle Galleries to at least look at The Ellin and Irving Berlin Sapphire and Diamond Ring. Bidding is estimated to begin at $200,000 at the December 14th auction.
Jason Henderson kicked off the month reprising his highly acclaimed latest venture, Getting to Noël You at Don’t Tell Mama on the 4th. If you missed this evening, don’t worry – he’s back by popular demand—same time, same location—on January 24th and February 11th. It’s quite a curious and fast-paced ride he takes us on, and it’s one not to be missed.
The York Theatre has delivered a mitzvah–just in time for Christmas. Billed as a Musical Comedy of Biblical Proportions, The Jerusalem Syndrome certainly lived up to expectations. You must see it to discover the meaning of the title, which is fact, not fiction.
While this has been in development for several years, the skilled midwifery of the York brought forth a little bundle of joy that had the audience laughing at its humor and touched by its message. Sensitive to the current Middle East conflict, the York bravely went ahead with the project, which affords everyone a chance to marvel and understand the miracle that is Israel.
It’s running through the end of the year—visit the York website https://yorktheatre.org for more info.
Urban Stages has announced its “2023 Winter Rhythms” series, the award-winning music festival at Urban Stages Theater (259 West 30th Street – between 7th & 8th Avenues).
It began with a gala on December 6 entitled “Nights at the Algonquin: A Celebration of The Oak Room Supper Club,” featuring many legendary cabaret performers including Natalie Douglas, Boots Maleson, Steve Ross, and Daryl Sherman. Hosted by Michael Colby (author of The Algonquin Kid), the evening began with a champagne and wine reception followed by the show at 7:30 with a post-show gathering to follow.
On Sunday, December 10 at 3pm “Created at the Algonquin: Songs from Musicals Written at The Algonquin,” featuring performances by Craig Bierko, Shana Farr, Jenn Gambatese, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Steve Ross and others. The program will be directed by Sara Louise Lazarus with Michael Lavine directing the music.
As part of the festivities, Shana Farr will reprise her glorious Barbara Cook tribute on the 16th. Ice Cream,. Anyone?
Everyone’s favorite is Karen Mason, whose show Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! is one night only at Birdland at 7 pm on the 11th.
Stay tuned for Part II for Christmas romance, tradition, and good will!
Head To The The Algonquin Hotel For Some Holiday Cheer
As we head into the holiday season, The Algonquin Hotel’s December event lineup is open to both hotel guests and New York City locals. The hotel will spread holiday cheer with a variety of festive performances, cocktails, and experiences including:
- Cocoa and Carols Happy Hour: Daily, 5-8PM, Every evening this December, all are invited to enjoy Specialty Cocoa while Christmas carols chime at the Blue Bar. Drinks will include Mexican Hot Chocolate spiked with mezcal
- KT Sullivan Cabaret: December 5th, 12th and 19th, Sullivan will perform her iconic Christmas Cabaret. As noted by The New York Times, Sullivan is a thrilling Off-Broadway performer with over eight published albums
- Rocco Dellaneve’s Rat Pack Christmas: December 7th, 14th and 21st, Rocco Dellaneve will perform iconic songs from the Rat Pack Christmas album with special inclusions of Santa with Sinatra, Rocco of the Snow, Rudolph and the Rat pack
- The Serafina’s and Broadway Vocalists: December 8th, 15th and 22nd, enjoy the high kicking – precision line dancing Christmas tradition around The Algonquin tree. The Serafina’s will be available for pictures and autographs from 6pm to 7pm, followed by special Broadway vocalists
A portion of proceeds from all events will be donated to Toys for Tots.
Beyond the December events, The Algonquin Hotel is located in a prime position nestled in the heart of Times Square and Fifth Avenue, making it the perfect launchpad for a New York City holiday experience. The hotel is a historical jewel that emphasizes the importance of making unique, storied experiences. Since its opening in 1902, The Algonquin Hotel is famous for its timeless style and desire to honor the literary and cultural elite. The distinguished Round Table Restaurant and Blue Bar offer tasteful dining inclusions and curated cocktails that are sure to excite everyone.
Photo credit: The Algonquin Hotel, Autograph Collection
My View: IT’S TOUGH TO SWING LIKE FRANK….THIS TOUGH GUY CAN…..ROBERT DAVI
The atmosphere in The Boca Black Box was akin to The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas last night as movie/TV star Robert Davi (140 films and counting) swaggered onto the stage to sing and swing the songs of Frank Sinatra. His show, titled “My Kind Of Town” had all the elements of a Sinatra event thanks to Davi’s personality which radiates the same mystique and musical excitement that ‘Ol Blue Eyes” possessed. Robert Davi’s performance was not a great actor acting a role… this was Robert Davi, a great actor who started his career as a trained singer thrilling an audience singing songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, but with Davi’s own magnetism and vocal prowess. I don’t know if Sinatra ever played Boca Raton but Robert Davi turned Boca into ‘his kind of town last night” as he brought the musical substance and charisma of “the chairman of the board” to South Florida.
Davi’s had a long and distinguished career in show business and this Boca Black Box audience got to see a lot of the musical part of it last night. The tough guy movie actor sang the music of Frank swinging it “his way”
About Robert Davi:
Robert Davi, an American actor, singer, writer, and producer has played the roles of main villain and drug lord Franz Sanchez in the 1989 James Bond film License to Kill. He was FBI Special Agent Bailey Malone in the NBC television series Proflier. He played a Vietnam veteran and FBI Special Agent Big Johnson in Die Hard. Davi played the opera-singing heavy Jake Fratelli in The goonies, Hans Zarba in Son of the Pink Panther and Al Torres in Showgirls. His album, Davi Sings Sinatra—On The Road to Romance, hit #6 on the Billboard jazz charts. Praised for his voice, Davi debuted as a headliner at The Venetian, in Las Vegas.
Adrienne Haan Celebrates Irving Berlin and Christmas at the Triad
This Christmas take a big scoop of classic Irving Berlin songs, have them sung by the ever sparkling Adrienne Haan, sprinkle in the voice of her musical director, Richard Danley and you have a festive feast for your ears. I have seen a number of Ms Haan’s shows at the Triad and each one includes something that makes it a step above a typical cabaret show. The first time I saw her there was an actual tuba on stage; the second a number of costume changes, other shows had duets with guest stars or choreography; this time hearing the singing voice of her long-time accompanist and musical director, Mr Danley. The two have bantered in the past but in this show Richard shows his vocal and comedic side with songs like I Paid My Income Tax Today and How About a Cheer for the Navy.
Of course Adrienne blew her audience away with her renditions of There’s No Business Like Show Business and Blue Skies; but, hearing the usually silent man behind the piano was a surprise to me like Teller taking the stage from Penn and his baritone was as shocking as hearing the bumbling Gomer Pyle turn into the rich voiced singer, Jim Nabors. The two of them created a wonderful celebration of Mr Berlin’s musical catalogue with a combination of solos and duets.
Entering the theater, as the holiday season begins, and a show title of White Christmas at the Triad Theater, one would expect to hear 90 minutes of Christmas songs; but, read the second line on the program and you realize that it is really a celebration of the man who wrote one of the most recognizable holiday songs of all time, White Christmas. Not only will we hear the music of Mr Berlin but we will get some insight into his life as Adreinne celebrates his 130 year anniversary of his arrival in the United States. From Europe to Broadway to Hollywood; in military songs, love songs or holiday classics the trio of Haan, Danley and Berlin take us on a historical journey of a life well lead.
Opening the show in a festive seasonal outfit ready for a New Years Eve celebration with “ice” dangling from her ears and around her wrist Adriene introduces us to some well-known Berlin tunes Alexander’s Ragtime Band and Let Me Sing and I’m Happy. One of the treats of her shows is that she does a lot of research into the music she sings and she has done her homework telling us about the life of Israel Beillin, immigrant from Imperial Russia, the country now known as Belarus. He only spoke Yiddish when he landed on Ellis Island so Ms Haan sings Ofyn Pripetchik in his native tongue and then follows with Berlin’s Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – a tribute to that wonderful Statue in NY harbor. She finishes this section of the show with Marie from Sunny Italy which gives her the opportunity to show her strong vocal ability with a long strong belt of a song.
Berlin came to America in 1893 at the age of 5 which means he was drafted into the army during World War 1, where he wrote the famous anthem Oh How I Hate to Get up in the Morning and which Ms Haan sang in military uniform. A number of tunes that Berlin wrote for both World Wars followed as the two singers alternated songs and Adrienne gave us some more tidbits about the composer. The song I Paid My Income Tax Today sung by Mr Danley is actually owned by the IRS. (I wonder is THEY have to pay tax on the royalties they earn when it is sung.)
Ms Haan is a proud Luxembourger and as life imitates art, or vice versa, Mr Berlin’s Broadway and film musical, Call Me Madam is based on the life of Perle Mesta who was the Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1949-1953. Haan again showed she’s the singer with the zinger when she sang The Hostess with the Mostes’ on the Ball from that show as well as the tribute to the fictitious country in that show Lichtenburg. As far as art leading to reality it is interesting to note that Mr Berlin’s home, 17 Beekman Place, was purchased by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1990 a year after Berlin’s death.
Berlin wrote over 1,500 songs in his 60 years of composing so to highlight all of the numbers Haan sings is too long a list; but, the jaunty I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning, They Say that Falling in Love is Wonderful, Cheek to Cheek and Blue Skies show her range of interpreting music. The love song Always was a particularly important song to Berlin and Haan did it justice as this song was written to Berlin’s wife, Ellin Mackay, on their wedding day.
Of all the show tunes, patriotic anthems, and love songs performed in this show I have to give a special shout out to the Haan/Danley duet of You’re Just in Love. I have seen it sung by a number of Broadway stars, Merman, Stritch, Donald O’Connor and Larry Blyden, (and for the newer generation, Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana) in the past; but I’ve never seen the male singer play the piano at the same time. WOW!
It is the holiday season, remember, so Ms Haan’s third costume change is a beautiful red gown that fits the time and she finished the evening with the traditional songs of the Yuletide spirit, including Happy Holiday, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm and of course White Christmas.
This is not a traditional Christmas carol singing show but Ms Haan never is one to follow the norm. This was a wonderful tribute to Mr Berlin with added surprises featuring the excellent wit and talents of both Adrienne and her musical director and accompanist of 22 years, the unsung (until this show) singer Mr Richard Danley.
A second show is at the Triad on Tuesday, December 5 at 7PM. It will get you smiling and into the holiday spirit.
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