- Posted December 4, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Weekends in America
Janet Rutland and Friends Bring “A Song is Born” to the Jazz Depot
For her latest, A Song is Born, Rutland came up with the idea of a show focused on contemporary, living songwriters, taking that route after looking over a list of numbers she’d always wanted to perform in a cabaret setting.
“There were songs in there that I’d never done, because they never seemed to fit in any show I’d had in the past,” she explains. “And when I looked at this list, I realized the common theme was that they were all by living songwriters. I got kind of excited about that.”
Then, when she began putting the concert together, she recruited four musicians to be a part of it: Isaac Eicher, her mandolin-champion son, currently working with his dad (and Janet’s husband), Shelby, in the string-jazz quartet Mischievous Swing; pianist Scott McQuade, her frequent musical partner and a nationally known jazz player; and fellow vocalists Emily Chappell and Alex Walter. Isaac is heard only in the last portion of the two-part show, but, as Janet notes, “There’s only one tune he doesn’t play on in the second half.”
Walter and Chappell sing with Rutland on several numbers, and each get a few solo tunes. McQuade, of course, is present throughout.
“Scott McQuade is just a dream to work with in this kind of a show, a quick study with great ears,” says Rutland. “You can’t stump him with a chart, and he plays so great.
“I heard Alex in a theater production, I Love You Because, a Playhouse Tulsa show. And I heard Emily in some recordings she’d posted on Facebook. I had quite a list of songs, and I knew it would be a challenge for me to do all that material myself. It’s fun to work with other people, and I thought it would be nice to use some faces and voices that haven’t been seen as much in this type of program. They were great picks -- they liked my theme, they liked where I was going with it, and the songs fit their voices well. It just worked very smoothly.”
The show, notes Rutland, includes “some very familiar things -- I’ve got Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney. But I also introduce some songwriters whose work I really love, Dave Frishberg and John Pizzarelli.”
She first became a fan of Pizzarelli, a noted jazz guitarist as well as a composer, some 15 years ago. “Shelby brought me an album and said, `I think you’ll like this. It’s all Nat King Cole songs by John Pizarelli,’” she recalls. “Well, now I have everything that he’s ever done.”
Rutland has never liked giving advance notice of specific songs in her shows; she even prefers not to have them listed in concert programs. By way of explanation, she relates a story about Pizzarelli.
“He was doing the Broadway show Swing, with Margaret Whiting, and he didn’t come on until later in the show. He had a big entrance, and when he walked out with his guitar, he saw his mother in the second row – and she looked at him and immediately looked down at her program, like, `Oh, who is this?’”
“I just don’t like doing program listings for a couple of reasons,” she adds. “First of all, you give away all your surprises. Second, you look at the tops of people’s heads, because they’re staring at their programs. I would rather have them get lost in the music, and I’ll tell them everything they need to know about the songs.”
Janet Rutland’s A Song is Born is set to begin at 5:00p.m. Sunday, August 25, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street.
The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Summer Concert Series.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.