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BWW CD Review: THANKFUL: A BENEFIT ALBUM FOR JERAD BORTZ Provides Broadway Inspiration

New album available on Rock-It Science Records

BWW CD Review: THANKFUL: A BENEFIT ALBUM FOR JERAD BORTZ Provides Broadway Inspiration

In February 2018, Jared Bortz was on top of the world when the unthinkable happened. An automobile accident resulted in a cervical spinal cord injury that left the actor, whose Broadway credits include MAMMA MIA! and over 5,000 performances in WICKED, paralyzed from the chest down. By his side in the accident (and in life) was Jared's husband, Steven Skeels, a versatile performer and songwriter.

Jared and Steven's personal journey of rediscovery, forged against the backdrop of a suddenly unsure and complicated world, is the thematic through-line of THANKFUL: A BENEFIT ALBUM FOR JARAD BORTZ, now available on Rock-It Science Records. Bringing together some of Broadway's most illustrious singers, arrangers, orchestrators, and musicians over the course of 22 original songs (written by Skeels), THANKFUL charts the people and the moments of madness and perseverance that pull us continually forward on the winding roads of life towards self-examination, understanding, and ultimately revelation.

The result is a series of musical meditations that serve collectively as a generous offering of inspiration.

Blessed with formidable collaborative talent at his side, Skeel, whose diverse and eclectic composing styles range from folk, gospel, pop, and even house music, creates a varied musical palette for the journey. Launching with the plaintive guitar/dream of "My Own," performed with simple persuasion by Ali Stroker, and the soul-infused, "Because of You," given heartfelt treatment by Christopher Jackson, THANKFUL weaves between the rhythmic pounding of "The Mind" (an intensely focused Andy Karl) to the gorgeous breath of "Snowfall" (hauntingly delivered by Megan Hilty). Pausing for the intimate confession, "You Gave Me Strength," tenderly rendered by Q. Smith, and the earthly realization of "The Guardian Angel" (Katie Thompson, masterful), the album diverges towards the invitation of escape with "Free," to the ultimate understanding of "You" (performed by Liz Callaway and Norbert Leo Butz, respectively, with grace and catharsis).

Bookended songs performed by Jarad Bortz ("A New Earth") and finally in duet with Steven Skeels ("Thankful") bring the album and its message to a final reckoning of hope and acceptance.

Timeless in its emotion, as played against the backdrop of 2020, THANKFUL has an especially resounding reverberance. Though devised as a fund-raiser for Jerad's ongoing medical needs (with a portion of proceeds also benefiting The Actors Fund of America and Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), it's hard not to be doubly moved by the album's invocation for peace and resilience in times when our greatest stability is upended. Skeels and Bortz seem to understand that it is in our universal longing that such harmony is realized, and our shared humanity finally made whole. With such musical accomplishment, as offered here, that is a powerful message for our times (and all times), indeed.

THANKFUL: A BENEFIT ALBUM FOR JERAD BORTZ is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and wherever music is sold.

Photograph by dirty sugar photography.

The featured vocalists on THANKFUL include Annaleigh Ashford, Shoshana Bean, Stephanie J. Block, Jerad Bortz, Alex Brightman, Breedlove, Lisa Brescia, Norbert Leo Butz, Liz Callaway, Gaelen Gilliland, Jin Ha, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Christopher Jackson, Andy Karl, Beth Leavel, Norm Lewis, Julia Murney, Q. Smith, Ali Stroker, Steven Skeels, Marty Thomas, Katie Thompson, Ryan Vasquez, Ann VanCleave and Ben Vereen.

THANKFUL's featured arrangers, orchestrators, and producers include Martyn Axe, Simon Beck, Ben Cohn, Carmel Dean, Ray Fellman, Josh Harris, Alex Lacamoire, Daniel Lincoln, Bryan Perri, Will Reynolds, Richard Rockage, James Sampliner, Brian Usifer, and Scott Wasserman.


Background singers for THANKFUL include: Jerad Bortz Jared Bradshaw, Kathy Coppolino, Michael Di Liberto, Olivia Donalson, Hannah Dowdy, Stacia Fernandez, David Gilleo, Gaelen Gilliland, Courtney Iventosch, Craig Jessup, Eddie Marco, Samuel Moffatt, Brian Munn, Lindsay Northen, Tori Palazola O'Rourke, Andy Redeker, Jonathan Ritter, Meaghan Sands, Steven Skeels, Ann Van Cleave, and Laura Woyasz.

Instrumentalists for THANKFUL include: Shelagh Abate, Konrad Adderley, Janet Alexrod, Kate Amrine, Tim Basom, Erin Benim, Karl Bennion, Dan Berkery, Ivan Bodley, Laura Bontrager, Sarah Boxmeyer, Wendy Bobbitt Cavett, Claire Chan, Marshall Coid, Monica Davis, Patricia Davis, Jonathan Dinklage, Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf, Peter Douskalis, Kiku Enomoto Ralph Farris Emma Ford, Alex Giosa, Ed Goldschneider, Charley Gordon, Augie Haas, Joyce Hammann, Audrey Hayes, Jonathan Heim, Jen Herman, Brian Holtz, Clarice Jensen, Dale Kirkland, Dillon Kondor, Alex Lacamoire, Whitney LaGrange, Dorothy Lawson, Tuck Lee, Roy Lewis, Daniel M. Lincoln, Paul Loesel, Ray Marchica, Sean McDaniel, Danny Miller, Philip Payton, Jocelyn Pan, Suzy Perelman, Amy Ralske, Ken Robinson, Richard Rockage, James Sampliner, Atsuko Sato, Allison Seidner, Debra Shufelt-Dine, Maggie Speier, Eric Stockton, Megan Talay, Hiroko Taguchi, Greg Thymius, Una Tone, Jim Tsao, Brian Usifer, Justin Vance, Mark Vanderpoel Jessica Wang, Jon Weber, Dan Weiner, and Chad Yarbrough.

Additional credits include Audio Engineers Andros Rodriguez, Angie Teo, Gloria Kaba, Ari Raskin; Assistant Engineers Zachary Eager, Dan Fyfe, Reece Conney, Marlin Parker; Mix Engineer Andros Rodriguez; Mastering by Chris Allgood at The Lodge; Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy and dirty sugar photography; and Art Director/Designer Darren Melchiorre. Special thanks to Jan Mullen and David Nehls. THANKFUL was recorded in New York City at Power Station, Reservoir Studios, Sear Sound, and Premier Studios.

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