News Ticker

Duke Ellington

Irving Berlin and Me (And a Brush with Death Along the Way)

April 5, 2022

In the past 20 years, I’ve produced a total of 34 different albums; 16 of them have dealt with Irving Berlin (1888-1989). The newest album in this ongoing Berlin series, "Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin: Love Songs and Such"--featuring such gifted artists as Betty Buckley, Karen Mason, Steve Ross, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Natalie Douglas, Jeff Harnar, Sarah Rice, Bobby Belfry, Keith Anderson, Molly Ryan, and Seth Sikes--was the hardest of all the albums to produce. And, for reasons I’ll address in a bit, it took by far the longest time to produce; life is not always easy. But for me, this is the most satisfying album of the bunch. (And as I type these words, I’m happy to note it’s just been nominated for a MAC Award, which is extra gratifying!) I know I’ve made a worthwhile contribution to Berlin’s recorded legacy. [more]

Remembering George Wein

September 15, 2021

George Wein, who died peacefully at his New York apartment at the age of 95, was the founder of the modern music festival.  His contributions to pop culture were enormous.   I liked him very much.  He was easy to talk to, always candid and frank in our talks, and he was wholly committed to the music he loved.  Starting in the early 1950’s, he created the Newport Jazz Festival, and followed that with assorted other festivals: the Newport Folk Festival, the Kool Jazz Festival, the JVC Jazz Festival, the Grand Parade du Jazz (in Nice, France), the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and more. [more]

Dorrance Dance: The Nutcracker Suite

December 23, 2019

The music included the catchy, familiar tunes of "The Nutcracker Suite" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, first featured in classical ballet. The Dorrance version uses the absolutely wonderful jazz arrangement by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. No doubt the music would have been enhanced with a live orchestra, but one assumes that there was neither the budget nor the space for a Big Band orchestra. Nonetheless, the music is a marvelous interpretation, providing the perfect accompaniment for tap dancing – and certainly worth hearing again on its own. On occasion, however, there is no music, just the rhythmic sounds of tap dancing providing its own accompaniment. [more]

Spotlight Cabaret: Ella At 100

May 29, 2017

It's Ella Fitgerald's centennial. She influenced more than a generation of singers and musicians. The lady called the “Queen of Jazz” or “The First Lady of Song” would have turned 100 this year. Her bounty is unmatched. Among her musical gifts, Ella was an exceptionally well-rounded musician, a pristine vocalist and impeccable improviser. She was jazz. There have been many first ladies of this or that but Ella was an original, clarion-voiced swing singer in a league of her own. [more]

Reflections on New York Festival of Song’s “Harlem Renaissance” Concert: Ferguson, Staten Island and What the Songs Teach

December 19, 2014

The enduring power of the Harlem Renaissance songs comes from their truth telling and historical testimony. Their accessibility and quality of invitation, their universality of human experiences of love, family, hope and loss, and their indomitability all make us adore these songs, and forget that they were initially the products of a devalued and segregated community. [more]

Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1965 – 1989

May 26, 2014

"For many of us this was our golden age," said creator, writer and host Scott Siegel in his introduction that for many present devotees of the art form that this evening's presentation was very meaningful as this was the era in which they came of age seeing many of these shows in their original productions and they are quite appreciative of them. [more]