Donna Lewis to Perform at Cafe Carlyle, 9/25
The Welsh-born singer Donna Lewis is one of those rare artists whose immense success on the pop radio charts disguises an exceptional and serious musicianship and breadth of repertoire. Her new project, Brand New Day, makes clear the range of her artistry, and may surprise listeners who know her only for her hit "I Love You Always Forever." She performs the new work, joined by celebrated jazz musicians David King (drums), Reid Anderson (bass) and Aaron Parks (piano), September 25 at the legendary Café Carlyle.
Part of Café Carlyle's new late show series, the performance will begin at 10:45pm. Admission is just $25 (plus two-drink minimum). Reservations can be made at www.thecarlyle.com or by phone at 212.744.1600. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).
Produced and arranged by Lewis' longtime friend David Torn, the avant-garde leaning composer and producer, Brand New Day is an intoxicating set of jazz-inflected covers and Lewis originals. With musicians who are widely acclaimed for their own fresh takes on popular music-including David King and Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus, whose pianist, Ethan Iverson, also plays on the record-Lewis completely reimagines a wide range of songs: Bacharach and David's "Walk on By," which was immortalized by Dionne Warwick and is here slowed to a sensual crawl; Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin,'" which Lewis and the band lift from its folk roots with a cool sense of swing; and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," rendered slowly and emotionally. She similarly reinterprets David Bowie's "Bring Me the Disco King," Antonio Carlos Jobin's "Waters of March," Neil Young's "Helpless," and Damien Rice's "Amie," and even offers a new version of "I Love You Always Forever."
"I Love You Always Forever" was such a hit for Donna Lewis, the 1993 song will always be the one for which many fans know her. She has revealed other dimensions of her creativity on recordings such as Be Still, her 2002 voice and piano album. Still, the aptly titled Brand New Day is a striking departure from anything she has done before.
It took nerve for Lewis to take on songs so deeply etched in the pop consciousness in such a stripped-down setting. But she recorded most of them in a single take, a significant accomplishment for an artist accustomed to pop music's do-and-do-over perfectionism. "Reid would say, 'Don't worry about making mistakes - that's jazz,'" she said. "I've always been pretty good in the studio, but this was kind of a revelation for me."
Lewis, who lives in Woodstock, NY, grew up in a musical family in Cardiff. Her father was a self-taught jazz-style pianist and guitarist. A fan of jazz singers including Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme, as well as piano rock king Elton John, she began writing her own songs at 14. She received classical training at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, where she majored in flute and piano. She performed in piano bars across Europe and recorded demos on her own four-track and then eight-track machines.
Atlantic Records Chairman Doug Morris was so enamored of her demo for "I Love You Always Forever," he flew Lewis to New York to meet him and perform her songs, and offered her a deal on the spot. It became the first song ever to get a million spins on American radio and the third best-selling tune in the history of Atlantic Records. The record also was an international sensation, topping charts all over the world.
Lewis' second album for the label, Blue Planet (1998), spawned two hits that topped the Billboard Dance charts. While on hiatus to start a family, she left her mark on such projects as The Art of Noise's The Seduction of Claude Debussy and the all-star 2001 benefit album Utopia. She also began her creative partnership with Torn, a guitarist and studio wizard known for his film scores including Friday Night Lights and Lars and the Real Girls and his work with rock legends such as David Bowie and Jeff Beck. In 2001, five electronically textured songs Torn and Lewis wrote and recorded for the Chute project were among the most requested on Los Angeles' KCRW for three weeks running.
The stripped-down acoustic approach of Be Still pointed the way to Brand New Day. But first came Lewis' high-energy 2008 album, In the Pink, which was praised for its "supremely undeniable Euro-style catchiness." Having gotten to record some of her all-time favorite songs on Brand New Day, Lewis is excited about getting out and singing them live.
About Café Carlyle at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel
Originally opened in 1955, Café Carlyle is New York City's bastion of classic cabaret entertainment, a place where audiences experience exceptional performers at close range in an exceedingly elegant setting. Since composer Richard Rodgers moved in as The Carlyle's first tenant, music has been an essential part of The Carlyle experience. No place is that more evident than in the Café Carlyle.
Café Carlyle is known for talents including Woody Allen, who regularly appears on Monday evenings to play with thE Eddy Davis New Orleans jazz band. For three decades, Café Carlyle was synonymous with the legendary Bobby Short, who thrilled sell-out crowds for 36 years. His spirit lives on through the music at Café Carlyle.
Continuing the tradition of the 1930s supper club, Café Carlyle features original murals created by French artist Marcel Vertès, the Oscar-winning art director of the 1952 Moulin Rouge.