BWW Interviews: Alexis Gershwin Holds Concert to Celebrate Release of Greatest Hits Disc
Perhaps there is some truth in the old adage that musical talent runs in the family.
In the case of singer Alexis Gershwin---the niece of legendary songwriters George and Ira Gershwin---early and very frequent direct exposure to the musical work of two of her infamous relatives helped her blossom into the world of jazz standards and the Great American Songbook.
"I was singing my uncles' music before I could even talk," she admits, having been, in a sense, born into American musical royalty. This enviable gift gave Ms. Gershwin direct access to her musical heritage, sprinkling her interpretations with a unique perspective whenever she performs any given Gershwin tune. As a lifelong ambassador to the House of Gershwin, nothing has meant more to Alexis, as an artist, than compellingly interpreting her uncles' signature union of music and lyrics.
This week, we can all bask in the alluring glow of this collaboration. On Tuesday, January 14, Ms. Gershwin---the only living Gershwin to still perform songs worldwide from the Gershwin catalog---is set to release her first-ever greatest hits compilation called Long Ago and Far Away. The 13-track-album---a retrospective of Alexis' recordings of her Uncles' compositions throughout her performing career---includes such classics as "S'Wonderful," "I've Got A Crush On You," "Summertime," "(Our) Love Is Here to Stay," and more.
And to commemorate the album release, Ms. Gershwin will also be celebrating with a special one-night-only cabaret concert in Los Angeles at the iconic Catalina Bar & Grill on Wednesday, January 15. She will be accompanied onstage by musical director Steven Applegate, and musicians Steve Rawlins (piano), Rusty Higgins (saxophone), Kirk Smith (bass), Bob Leatherbarrow (drums), and vocalists Kara Shaw, Sarah Brandon, and Will North. Along with music from the album, the show will include Ms. Gershwin's takes on iconic gems such as "I've Got Rhythm," "The Man I Love," "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," "Embraceable You," and many others.
Before her album release and concert, Ms. Gershwin agreed to answer a few questions for BroadwayWorld...
BWW: Hello, Ms. Gershwin! Your soon-to-release "Greatest Hits" compilation sounds divine! How were you able to whittle your catalog down to the tracks that eventually made the cut and appears in the collection?
Because they are all my favorites and because they cover many different facets of the moods of love.
Recording in the studio vs. performing live in front of an audience... do you prefer one over the other more?
I love them equally for different reasons. Performing live gives me personal contact with my audience. Recording in the studio is a lot fun, creatively. Each is exciting in its own special way.
It goes without saying that having George and Ira Gershwin as your Uncles was a huge influence to you as a performer. Besides their music, what other important life lessons were you able to glean from them?
[My uncles imparted] the importance of romance and positive love and humor... The beauty of expression in poetry through lyrics... Positive thinking and attitude towards life and love.
Your Uncles, of course, have contributed immensely to the Great American Songbook--in fact, they're the very definition of it. Which particular compositions of theirs have a special place in your heart? Which specific song(s) of theirs do you love to perform live more than anything else?
In my honest opinion, my uncle George's piano Concerto in "F" is the greatest piece of music ever written. And I will be performing some of my most favorite songs in my new show. However, my two most favorite Gershwin songs are " Our Love Is Here To Stay" and " Someone to Watch Over Me."
Aside from your Uncles, were there other particular artists growing up that you feel were highly influential in your maturation as a singer?
For you, what is it about Jazz that makes it an enjoyable, preferred genre to perform?
For me, it's the up-tempos and slow tempos combined. The contrast of horns, drums and violins is a very inspiring musical setting for me to sing to.