After enjoying recent critical acclaim and nationwide radio airplay for his third album Almost Love, New York City-based jazz/pop singer-songwriter Marcus Goldhaber began previews on Monday, Dec. 17 as a featured performer in The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Music of Harold Arlen. The show officially opens Thursday, January 10, 2013 at the St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, NYC.
The musical revue features classics like ‘Stormy Weather,’ ‘Come Rain or Come Shine,’ ‘Lets Fall in Love,’ and all the beloved songs from The Wizard Of Oz.
Moving from The Cotton Club through Arlen’s Hollywood years to Broadway, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Song’ shares inside stories of how some of the world’s most beloved songs were created, with rare behind-the-scenes footage from The Wizard of Oz taken by Harold Arlen himself. Says Goldhaber: “The cast and band are phenomenal and I'm really excited to be singing these songs just steps away from where many of them were first introduced in the 1930s.”
Growing up Jewish in Buffalo, like Arlen, while also sharing the same draw toward to the blues holds special meaning to Goldhaber.
“I've always felt a small connection to him and an added sense of inspiration as a songwriter,” he says. “Though he was at his prime in the Tin Pan Alley days, when the majority of hit songs followed a 32 bar form, his style was completely unique and often unexpected. When I'm writing, I always try and let the song do as much of the writing as possible. If the result is an untraditional form, so be it, as long as it's justified strongly by melody or lyric. After all, if Harold could do it, ‘Why oh why can't I?’”
Goldhaber has quickly gained a reputation among critics and radio programmers for his accessible songwriting and intimate, emotional approach to straight-ahead jazz, combining John Pizzarelli’s hipness, Chet Baker’s cool sensibility and Harry Connick’s emotional directness and perfect phrasing.
Goldhaber has appeared in NYC at Birdland, The Kitano, The Metropolitan Room, Iridium, The Laurie Beechman, The Cutting Room, The Makor/Steinhardt Center, The Carnegie Club and The Lenox Lounge as well as in Boston, Chicago, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. His theatrical credits include: The Pajama Game, Kiss Me Kate, Singing In The Rain, My Way (Sinatra tribute) and I Left My Heart (Tony Bennett tribute).
Almost Love, his first album of original compositions, was a recent CD Pick Of The Week on New York’s WBAI, and is getting radio support across the nation, recently debuting in the Jazz Top 50 of The Roots Music Report.
Jazz Weekly, All About Jazz, the JNS News Service, O’s Place Jazz and Sirius XM Host Brett Winterble are among the growing list of media giving the album high praise.
Having recently hosted his sixth annual New Year’s Eve concert at Fabio’s in New York City, Marcus Goldhaber sat with Examiner, discussing his “real thrill to be a part of this special tribute to Harold Arlen's incredible songs” and his deep and abiding love and respect for jazz and America’s “songbook” classics of the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s:
Marcus, what attracted you to jazz?
I grew up in a house where music was always playing, and
the songs that were playing were songs written in the ‘20s,
‘30s and ‘40s. It wasn’t so much initially the style of jazz
that I was attracted to, but the songs and the songwriters.
The forms that these simple tunes took was brilliant!
It made so much sense to me, and it made me feel a certain way,
although I’m sure it had a lot to do with the way my mom was playing
them on the piano as I grew up. So that was my introduction
to this music.
As I started to research a little bit more and take a more
active interest on my own, I started to realize who was recording all of these
songs, and found my way into jazz that way. I also had friends in school
that took me to singers like Sarah Vaughn and Chet Baker, Anita O’Day
and Peggy Lee.
My mom didn’t put so much emphasis on the names of these
folks as the songs themselves that she was raised with. So she was passing
along something that she grew up with, the same as any parent would pass along the people that they grew up with to their children.
Who are some of the jazz artists who have influenced you the most, and why?
I have always been attracted to melody, and the singers I started listening to were
Chet Baker and Sarah Vaughn. Those are the two I listen to a lot. I also listen
to Johnny Hartman and piano players like Errol Garner and Fats Waller. I listen to
a lot of early Frank Sinatra:when he was with Tommy Dorsey and the Harry James
Orchestra. I loved the way he sang with these beautiful arrangements that were
very melody-based and before he got inot the Count Basie years and Riddle
Currently, you are starring in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Song: the Music of Harold Arlen.’ What is it about the music of Harold Arlen that appeals to you?
Well, first I should say that this show came to me; I didn’t even know that it was in
circulation and they were casting in New York for the premiere. I was referred to
the producers and I went in and sang for them.
When I first heard of it, then it was a no-brainer for me. Harold Arlen has always
been one of my favorite composers. His melodies tend to be much more unique
than his contemporaries at the time. The length: many of them adhered to the
32 or 16 bar phrasing in song…
His songs have interesting tempo changes, don’t they?
Yes. Also, his melodies tend to follow the emotional story that he is telling,
the musical story that he is telling and he is such a sophisticated writer.
Although he didn’t have the notoriety of the writers around him, folks
like Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin
and so on, everybody I have talked to revered his writing style: shining a
new light on a new way of looking at things.
Arlen was an inspiration, not to mention that he was also Jewish and was from
Buffalo, which is something that I am proud of being.
Can you explain to our readers what you meant when you said
that you learned the songbook classics “through a form of
Growing up when I was a child, as I alluded to earlier, one of my
biggest influences was my mother and not in that ‘Gypsy Rose’
sort of way. The common practice in our house was after dinner
my mom would head over to the piano and start playing any
number of these songs while my dad was doing the dishes and
my sister and I would start doing out homework. Mom would call
out, “Do you know this song?” and this would happen in our house.
More often than not I did not know it, and her reaction would always be
“How do you not know this song?” and she would tell me: “You have
to know this song. This is a song that you need to know!” Again, not
so I could perform it some day, but just so that…it’s almost like a
lost language that a family passes down.
All I can say is that it worked. I graduated from high school with thousands
of these songs in my head and a very few amount of my friends that I
could share them with necessarily, even though a lot of them were into
jazz and knew some of them. The extent of the repertoire that she passed on
still continues to pass on. These are all songs that my grandparents
played for her growing up. She still knows all these melodies even to this day.
Critics have described you as “exciting, unique and imaginative”
while you personally describe yourself as “a communicator, an
entertainer; not just a flashy coat out in Vegas.” Can you elaborate?
Well…and no disrespect to anyone who’s wearing a flashy coat at all…
I think that if I’m gonna sing a song and ask someone to listen to me then
I just believe in starting from a place of honesty. I just believe that is the
most important element. Leave folks feeling as though they were engaged
in a conversation: an emotional conversation, a musical conversation. Also
that they got their money’s worth: that they were entertained by something
that they felt strongly. They felt something for the songs, for the experience.
That’s been my driving force, and the rest follows that lead.
SEE MARCUS GOLDHABER LIVE:
Marcus Goldhaber in “The Wonderful Wizard of Song”
Opens Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013
St. Lukes Theatre
308 West 46th St.
New York City
Performances: Mondays, 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.
Tickets $69.50 & $39.50 are available via www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200.