The closing weeks of 2003 have been exciting ones for me, starting with a six-day engagement (September 30-October 5) at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. It’s always a challenge to play opposite (and with) Dave Frishberg. He’s such a brilliant pianist and a fantastic songwriter. Whenever we do our two-piano act, we always work in a few duets along with our individual mini-sets to fill out the evening.
Farewell to a Memorable Year - Bob Dorough
Several of our high-profile fans came in during the week, along with many of the faithful, and a good time was apparently had by all. A young artist named Nelly McKay showed up on opening night. She actually comes from my home area (the Poconos) and seems destined for stardom as a singing, piano-playing songwriter. On Thursday night, I paid an after-hours visit to Jack Sheldon's gig at a club in Glendale called Jax. When Jack saw me come into the room, he nominated me for Governor of California, then quickly "made" me sit in with his fine quartet.
Returning to New York soon after, I swung immediately into a two-night gig at Joe's Pub in the East Village, where I was the guest of super lyricist Fran Landesman. Fran had arrived from London with her new collaborator and pianist, Simon Wallace. She also invited Jackie Cain to do a guest spot on her four shows at Joe's Pub. As you may recall, Jackie & Roy introduced lots of classic Landesman-Wolf songs (co-written by the late Tommy Wolf) in days of yore. Roy Kral, too, wrote a few melodies to Fran's lyrics. Jackie sang some of these in her all-too-brief segment of the show, illustrating in the process why many of us believe Jackie is definitely ready to return as a solo singer. For my portion of the show, I focused on some of the songs that I’ve penned to Fran’s lyrics, including some I’ll bet you already know.
The following week, I met another young singer-pianist – one from London this time. His name is Jamie Cullum, and he has already arrived. During the last week of his month-long engagement at the Oak Room, Jamie announced the signing of a contract with Verve Records. I’d been hip to him for some time because he recorded my song “Devil May Care” on his recent Candid CD and my man-at-sea, Swedish jazz chef Peter Parnestam, mailed the disc to me. Jamie's new release features “But For Now,” another of my songs. Jamie included that one in his Oak Room shows. In fact, on the night we attended, he ended the set with “But For Now” as an encore. Then, as I was taking a "songwriter's bow," he surprised me by calling for a duet on “Devil May Care!” "You play the piano, Bob!” he insisted. I predict that you’ll soon hear much about this dynamic new artist and his CD, which is entitled “Twenty Something.” I should mention that he was accompanied by his fine bassist-arranger Geoff Gascoyne and his drummer Sebastian de Krom. They’re are on the CDs, too.
In the meantime, plying my steady way at Sunday’s Iridium brunches, the year turtled on and the holidays began. In early December, George Newall, Gil Dyrli, and I (the three of us are known collectively as The Web Generation), made a presentation in Nashua , NH , at the NHSTE concerning “Schoolhouse Rock” and its effect on the Web (more on the xlink). As the year-end pace picked up (I didn’t miss one brunch) and my birthday approached, we added drummer Ed Ornowski to our trio at the Iridium, in preparation for a live recording to be done right there at the club. Although the recording has been postponed, Ed continues to play with us on Sundays, making our weekly gigs there livelier than ever.
Celebration of my eightieth birthday – believe it, baby! – was actually spread across four days, beginning with a concert on December 11 at the Hillside Inn, here in my home area. This concert featured the new CD – “Reasons For Christmas” – and spotlighted the PATH organization that both produced it and benefits from its sale. This was a joyous and colorful affair lasting several hours, with many groups doing various numbers from the recording. I covered both a new Christmas song and my old one (“Blue Xmas”). At the end, though, I was surprised to be called up to the stage by State Representative Kelly Lewis, a prime mover in the project. He presented me with a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. There was also a fine birthday cake and the other musicians broke into that song we always sing on birthdays.
My true day (December 12) was celebrated at home with 60 or 70 guests, including my three siblings, on hand. Two days later, the Iridium brunch also dissolved into a birthday celebration with an exceptional cake presented to me by the club’s staff. Whew! I can’t take anymore – but thanks, everybody!
We close the year with two more Brunch concerts and ……. away!!! Happy New Year!
© Bob Dorough (December 2003)