Leah Finkelstein has just been awarded best singer/songwriter through the original song competition at the 2011 Malibu Music Awards. Leah's music has coined a new genre: American Roots Soul. She is the daughter of noted late jazz vocalist, Claudia Finkelstein of Joy Spring, and began her studies as a pianist at the age of five. When Leah was fourteen, she required more intense piano study and began to work under the tutelage of Alex "Coolie" Johns, a well-known jazz pianist and arranger from New England. Through his brilliant teachings, Leah learned all about jazz theory and the world of improvisation. Alex also booked her first gig at the age of fifteen with a jazz combo in Portland, Maine. Her proud mom sat in with them.
Leah studied at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, earning B.A. in Music Performance, with a focus on piano. She composed on a regular basis and performed on campus and around the area. After college, she lived in Boston, playing in many bands as a pianist ranging from rock to soul to R&B. She formed her own band, The Help, featuring her original music and had a successful run. Leah also played solo gigs in Florida, the Caribbean and New Orleans.
When Leah's mother fell ill in 2002, she returned home, continued to perform, and focused on spending time with her family. After Claudia passed in 2005, Leah had boom of creativity, composing what would become her next album, recorded by her husband, Kevin, a professional audio engineer. She formed another band that her bass player named Dear Claudia, after hearing Claudia's jazz recordings and knowing how close Leah was with her mom. Dear Claudia was extremely popular in Southern Maine, New England, and had a successful tour in NYC in 2007. The Dear Claudia album was also successful on the radio, and continues to be played on radio stations globally.
After receiving interest by Showtime for some of her songs, including Weird Day, she left her day job on the east coast as a social worker and relocated to Los Angeles with Kevin. Since moving to LA, Leah has been performing all over Southern California. She landed resident gigs at Smiles’ in Sherman Oaks, Michael’s in Burbank and Exotic Thai Bistro in Simi Valley, among other venues she has graced such as Hotel Café, Bellavino, San Manuel Casino, and private functions in Malibu.
Meanwhile, with several years under her belt as a social worker, Leah was drawn to the non-profit organization, Warrior Theatre, a performing arts center and support center for adults who were victims of childhood abuse. She connected with Mitchell Holden, the founder, and they co-produced and co-directed a play to raise awareness about the cause. Leah performed original work written for the play and Mitch also starred in the production. They continue to hold support groups for women with an abusive background who are also in the arts. Mitch and Leah also co-wrote a book detailing an approach to therapy designed for adults abused as children, created by Dr. Arlene Drake Ph.D., Chairperson of the Board for Warrior Theatre. Leah also provided the illustrations.
Given Mitch & Leah’s incredible ability to work on several projects together at once, Mitch signed on as Leah’s manager. He has placed her songs on several radio stations worldwide including a large market station (600,000 listeners) in Melbourne, Australia. Leah is being considered for placement on Warner Brother’s ‘[One Tree Hill.’ She is also currently in negotiation with DL Music, a music placement company, and also being considered for placement by an A-list director in Hollywood.
Jill Tengan, the Senior Recording Engineer at RUSK Studios in Hollywood became a fan of Leah’s work after hearing her regularly at a resident gig in Burbank. Leah and Jill teamed up and produced her second album, “Feigning Composure”. Through this process, Mitch, Leah, and Kevin launched Def Cat Productions, a new production company and label, releasing Feigning Composure as its first artistic work.
Woven into the fabric of Def Cat is the idea of the social aspect of what brought Leah, Kevin, and Mitch together as working partners in the first place. Def Cat is almost the culmination everyone’s strengths under one roof. As the saying goes, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’
Please call Def Cat Productions at (213) 924-9268 for details and/or to order a CD signed by Leah.
Leah Finkelstein - Guitar, keys, Harmonica, Lead Vocals
Drew Nichols - Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lap Steel
GW Pope III - Drums and backing Vocals
Jason Lobell - Bass and backing vocals
Taking it Slow - Leah Finkelstein
Mama Says Hi - Leah Finkelstein
The Tree is Shaking Again - Leah Finkelstein
Revolution Leah Finkelstein
Cocktails Leah Finkelstein
Long Way Home Leah Finkelstein
Waiting for a Good Day - Leah Finkelstein
Hot Coffee - Leah Finkelstein
Go West - Leah Finkelstein
Bad Mood in Paradise - Leah Finkelstein
What's in a Name? Much, if it's Claudia
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What's in a name? Much, if it's Dear Claudia By AIMSEL L.PONTI Dear Claudia: "Dear Claudia...
What's in a name? Much, if it's Dear Claudia
By AIMSEL L.PONTI
Dear Claudia: "Dear Claudia"
In 2005, Portland musician Leah Finkelstein lost her mother, Claudia, to cancer. Needless to say, the effect on her was profound. But here's the good news. Leah and her mom shared a huge bond, which was the love for music. Claudia was also a musician, a jazz vocalist to be exact, and was a fan of the Beatles, Billie Holiday, Elton John and Rickie Lee Jones. This of course rubbed off on daughter Leah, who began to write music when she was 16. The songwriting of her mom's favorite artists was a significant influence on Leah.
After college, Finkelstein was living in Boston and trying to figure out what direction she wanted to take with her music. In 2002 she got the call about her mother's illness and relocated to Portland to be with her. Three years later, when Claudia passed away, Finkelstein underwent a musical shift and began to refine her songwriting style. She started playing gigs again and, just as important, was able once again to write songs.
One fateful night last January, Finkelstein was playing at the Dogfish on Free Street and was approached by drummer Herb Clarke. Clarke moved to Maine in the early '90s and has been drumming ever since with a number of bands on a number of projects. Before he left the West Coast to live in Maine, Clarke studied and played with musicians from places like Greece, Nigeria and Israel. This left a "world music" imprint on him that he likes to work into all his music. Clarke also introduced Finkelstein to bass and guitar player Matt Hansen. Hansen has been playing music since high school. He attended Berklee College of Music for a year, then returned to Portland and became a member of Strange Pleasure and Ebnflo, two mainstays of the local scene. The connection between Finkelstein, Clarke and Hansen was instantaneous. The only thing left to do was to name the band and make a record. They had been listening to one of Claudia Finkelstein's CDs, and Hansen made the suggestion of Dear Claudia. The name most certainly stuck. The self-titled CD was recently released, and it is a charming and smart assembly of 11 songs.
Finkelstein has an expressive voice that is full of soul, and she plays a mean keyboard. Clarke and Hansen give her songs the royal treatment with percussion and bass lines. As for genre, who knows and who cares? But OK, fine, I'll give it a whirl. In fact, I'm gonna coin a term. "Dear Claudia" is piano- based smart-pop. It elicits a kind of 1970s FM-radio songwriter feeling that translates seamlessly to the present. "This Too Shall Pass" is my current favorite: "Spinning 'round my head, the things I gotta do, things I gotta do today. He smokes his first cigarette and I think about, I think about our love. This too shall pass." Hansen's acoustic guitar and bass and Finkelstein's organ licks converge with Clarke's drumming and make for an outstanding song, the centerpiece. Back-up vocals by Kim Elliot further decorate the song. "In Other Houses" is another jewel, which includes the electric- guitar contribution of Kevin Dietz, who also performs on "What a Woman He Was." The latter tells the story of a woman named Dory who paid for everything with one-dollar bills and rode her bicycle wearing high heeled shoes. One night at the pub, big old Jim tries to steal a kiss from Dory, and during the exchange he knocks Dory's wig off, exposing "her" true gender. Jim punches Dory's lights out, but not to worry, Dory hit the road and is now a go- go dancer in Albuquerque. As for big old Jim, "he's never been quite the same, he lives in a cabin out in Aroostook County, Maine, and he's still singing, 'Oh, what a woman, what a woman he was ..."' It's a fun and funky number complete with wah-wah guitar effects. The tune "Cocktails" features a saxophone cameo from Darren Whitney.
Dear Claudia sounds seasoned well beyond its 10-month existence. By the way, I've always been a fan of the "hidden track," and the one on this album is worth waiting for. The final song, "You Were Right," ends at about four minutes and is followed by nearly five of silence, which is quietly broken with the sounds of an acoustic guitar. Finkelstein's voice then comes in with a cover of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" accompanied by several other singers. It's a stark, poignant ending to an already fantastic record. The band plans to head back into the studio next year, and I for one am eager to hear what emerges. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't say that somewhere out there there's a woman named Claudia with a huge, content grin on her face, and she's likely singing right along. Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All songs from Dear Claudia & Feigning Composure.
Selections by Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, The Police, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Cliff, The Beatles, Robert Johnson, Bonnie Raitt, Alanis Morisette, Al Green, Three Dog Night, etc. In other words, original tunes are the focus. However, Leah's band is well versed in a variety of classic rock tunes, motown, blues, as well as jazz standards. It all depends on what the evening calls for...
There are no upcoming dates at this time.