Michael Feinstein's Jazz and Popular Song Series Returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room for Shows in April, May and June

Michael Feinstein's Jazz and Popular Song Series Returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room for Shows in April, May and June

When Michael Feinstein was in his 20s and sitting at the piano in The Algonquin Hotel's fabled Oak Room, the preternaturally informed musician aspired to a successful career in music. Decades later, when Jazz at Lincoln Center's Director of Jazz and Popular Song began this series in 2011, he undoubtedly hoped it would grow into a highly anticipated annual. Both goals were inevitable.

Now arguably the standard bearer of our Great American Songbook, Feinstein not only performs, but writes, produces, educates, collects, and archives like a musical truffle hound. The multifaceted, award-winning musician also founded The Great American Songbook Foundation and Academy http://www.michaelfeinstein.com/. Whether you want to be entertained or illuminated (or both), Feinstein's series are a one-stop-shop.

Once again, beginning Wednesday evening at 7 pm in Jazz at Lincoln Center's spectacular Appel Room, Michael Feinstein shares his taste, knowledge, and infectious enthusiasm with concerts of diverse music and vocals. This year's concert schedule with The Tedd Firth Big Band and special guests includes The Great Jazz Standards, A Right To Sing the Blues, and Sing Me a Swing Song. In a recent interview with BroadwayWorld.com, Feinstein says he thinks the shows are popular not only because they reflect imagination and variety, but also because "they're so clearly spontaneous at a time when music is often pre-canned." Each evening different vocalists join our host presenting his or her singular style.

Michael Feinstein's Jazz and Popular Song Series Returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room for Shows in April, May and JuneFeinstein acquired his taste for jazz, blues and swing through a portal of popular music. Six invaluable years researching, cataloguing and preserving phonograph records and sheet music for Ira Gershwin offered a daily master class.

For a standard to be reinterpreted as jazz, he says, depends on the song's good bones. The melody has to be a good starting off point. Bones also dictate whether blues and swing renditions will work. When there are vocals, lyrics are highly influential. Occasionally, one can map a trajectory: 1930's "Body and Soul" (Edward Heyman/Robert Sour/Frank Eyton/Johnny Green) was written for the popular English actress, Gertrude Lawrence, sung on Broadway by purveyor of torch, Libby Holman, reinterpreted by the Jack Hilton Band and performed as pure jazz by saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.

Versions of ballads or melancholy songs to up-beat tempos, often seem false. Does Feinstein think any Broadway or popular song can be reinterpreted as jazz/blues/swing? "Yes, but not successfully," he says. "People think of Stephen Sondheim as being too complex for jazz, for example, too dense." Equal opportunity interpretation is not the rule. Every take must be approached on a song-by-song basis.

Concert Schedule:

The Great Jazz Standards: April 13 at 7:00, April 14 at 7:00 and 9:00; Featured Guests: Marilyn Maye, Freda Payne, and Veronica Swift

A Right to Sing the Blues: May 11 at 7:00, May 12 at 9:00; Featured Guests: Mary Stallings and Storm Large

Sing Me a Swing Song: June 8 at 7:00, June 9 at 7:00 and 9:00; Featured Guests: Catherine Russell and Allyson Briggs

Tickets can be purchased through jazz.org 24 hours a day or CenterCharge at 212-721-6500, open daily from 10 am to 9 pm. Tickets can also be purchased at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office, located on Broadway at 60th Street, ground floor.

Photos by Ayano-Hisa

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