New American Songbook Project
The New American Songbook Project features daring arrangements and re-constructions of jazz, pop, and folk standards made famous by vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Astrud Gilberto, Graham Nash, Mick Jagger, and Cat Stevens. Members include vocalist Rocio Guitard (voice), Michael Smolens (piano/keyboard/arrangements), Alex Murzyn (saxes), Fred Randolph (basses), and Greg Wyser-Pratte (drums).
Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 4pm
at Piedmont Piano Company
1728 San Pablo Ave. (at 18th), Oakland, CA
$20 - To reserve tickets with your credit card, please call (510) 547-8188
Last week we were treated to a concert from "The New American Songbook Project" by a group of supremely talented musicians. Our audience appreciated the innovative arrangements by keyboardist Michael Smolens and the stellar vocals of Rocio Guitard. We look forward to their next engagement at our concert series.
–Norman Landsberg (Piedmont Piano Concert Series presenter/arranger/recording artist)
The arrangements show an astonishing (and consistently high) level of creativity that flow from Michael, who is also a magician at the piano. I was in awe of the musicianship on display from each member of the group, and of the many ways they weave their contributions together to create a mesmerizing sound.
–Barry Warren (legendary jazz lyricist)
I hear dozens of jazz groups a year at Hillside, and the New American Songbook Project was tremendous fun ! I loved hearing
the band bring Michael's cunning and sometimes poignant arrangements to life.
–Bruce Koball (Berkeley Hillside Club Concert Series host & musical director)
For audio samples of the band, visit the New American Songbook Project.
In Michael's own words, "The idea behind this group is to see how far I can take well-known jazz, pop, and traditional folk songs from their original source while keeping them vibrant and emotionally relevant to listeners. It's my only group that doesn't feature my writing exclusively, but each song becomes in a sense a 'song within a song'. By the time they've heard "Girl With The Whole Step" (a complete re-telling of 'Girl From Ipanema' clothed as a study in whole-steps) or Mick Jagger's "Satisfaction" (skating along in three different grooves), they've taken quite a ride. When people hear what we do to songs that they are very familiar with, they are universally excited and really trust us..."
Rocio Guitard (vocals)
Born in Munich, and raised in Madrid, Rocio Guitard has been sharing her infectious spirit through music since she could barely walk. Since moving to the Bay Area in 1998, Guitard has released three CDs of her own and contributed to countless others. Equally comfortable singing jazz as she is with rock, pop, latin, soul or world music, Guitard has been called "a powerhouse, one who has a wide range, a beautiful voice, and the intuitive ability to be a major jazz singer." (Scott Yanow, author of ten books including The Jazz Singers, Swing, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76)
Michael Smolens (piano/keyboard/arrangements)
Michael Smolens has been accompanying and arranging for many leading Bay Area vocalists, including: Raz Kennedy, David Worm, Bryan Dyer, Ernie Shelton, Rhiannon, Shea Breaux-Wells, Katy Stephan, Biaja Solomon, Karen Blixt, along with Pragmavision recording and touring icon, Claudia Schmidt. His original works have been recorded by Stefon Harris (vibes), Paul McCandless & Gene Burkert (reeds/flutes), Zakir Hussain (tabla), and has been commissioned by Meet The Composer, Bernard Osher Foundation, the Occidental Choir, Unity Church, and numerous artists in the Bay Area and New York. Michael leads five other ensembles that feature his compositions—the vocal Mirabai Ensemble, KRIYA Octet, earPlay Jazzquintet, Nuvo Chamber Trio, and the West-African Bal du Kor trio. He has been teaching a wide variety of instruments and voice since 1974 and coaching other teachers since 2000.
Alex Murzyn (soprano/alto/tenor saxophones)
Alex Murzyn has been a major saxophone/flute/clarinet force in the Bay Area for well over a decade. His versatility and passion has lead him to play with leading artists in traditional and contemporary jazz, soul, rock, funk, and different flavors of Latin. His music was shaped in part through his private studies with jazz legends Dave Liebman and Jerry Bergonzi at the Berklee College of Music. Further studies included work with symphonic teachers on flute and clarinet. Alex has chosen to return this gift in the form of his private, workshop, and school teaching throughout the Bay Area. Mr. Muryzn has performed with jazz greats Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Arturo Sandoval, Ben Vereen, the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, and Sammy Davis Jr.; jazz-fusion artists Ray Obiedo, Russ Ferrante (of the Yellowjackets), and legendary bassist Stanley Clark; and pop favorites the Temptations, the O'Jays, and Huey Lewis and the News (with whom he toured). Alex has released three CDs as a leader under the Kamei and Monarch labels. (His recording with the Machete Ensemble was nominated for a Grammy in 2003). He can also be heard on recordings with local luminaries Pete Escovedo, Rebecca Mauleon, Mark Little, Mike Vax Big Band and Benny Rietveld.
Fred Randolph (acoustic/fretless & fretted electric basses)
Fred Randolph is one of the busiest bassists and teachers on the Bay Area scene with a versatile skill set that has brought him work with leading vocalists such as Claudia Villela, Kim Nalley, Melanie O'Reilly, Deborah Winters, Stephanie Bruce, Tony Lindsay, Kenny Washington, Nicholas Bearde, Scotty Wright, and countless others. As a leader he has released two CDs — Learning Curve and New Day—and performs frequently with his own group, "The Fred Randolph Quintet." Fred also is an integral part of Michael's KRIYA and earPlay ensembles.
Greg Wyser-Pratte (drums)
Greg Wyser-Pratte found his true voice as a drummer only after he was enrolled in college as a trumpet performance major. But he has quickly taken root as a go-to drummer on the live scene as well as making big waves with film and television credits with Dan Cray Trio. With over 20 full-length album credits, and appearances at Jazz Festivals throughout the world, his playing has been heard with vocalists Marc Courtney, Charenee Wade, Judy Roberts, and Paula West along with instrumentalists Von Freeman, Eric Reed, John Campbell, Ira Sullivan, and Christian Tanburr. His experience as composer and arranger comes through all of his beautifully sculpted drum solos.