Gordon Michaels & Friends
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Gordon Michaels & Friends

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Jazz Soul


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"Lost Art of Cabaret"

In a time of brief musical trends and constant change, the true entertainers still stand the test of time. Take for instance Broadway. The sound systems have been modernized, lights have been updated, even the seats have been upgraded, but a good Broadway show is timeless. Cabaret is one of the timeless staples of Broadway.

Cabaret by definition, according to Wikipedia, is a form of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue—a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables (often dining or drinking) watching the performance being introduced by a master of ceremonies or emcee (MC). Cabaret also refers to a Mediterranean-style brothel—a bar with tables and women who mingle with and entertain the clientele. Traditionally these establishments can also feature some form of stage entertainment, often singers and dancers.

More specifically in the United States, cabaret diverged into several different styles of performance mostly due to the influence of Jazz Music. Chicago cabaret focused intensely on the larger band ensembles and reached its peak in the speakeasies, and steakhouses (like The Palm) of the Prohibition Era.

New York cabaret never developed to feature a great deal of social commentary. When New York cabarets featured jazz, they tended to focus on famous vocalists like Nina Simone, Bette Midler, Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, and Hildegarde rather than instrumental musicians. Cabaret in the United States began to decline in the 1960s, due to the rising popularity of rock concert shows and television variety shows. The art form still survives in various musical formats as well as in the Stand-up comedy format and in popular drag show performances.

Cabaret is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts in the United States, particularly in New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, as new generations of performers reinterpret the old forms in both music and theatre. Many contemporary cabaret groups in the United States and elsewhere feature a combination of original music, burlesque and political satire, as can be found in such groups as Cabaret Red Light and Leviathan: Political Cabaret. In New York City, since 1985, successful, enduring or innovative cabaret acts have been honored by the annual Bistro Awards.

Boston, MA is currently home to Gordon Michaels, one such artist, who encompasses the spirit of Cabaret and can be seen around town and around the country. Powerful is a word that most people would use to describe his smooth baritone voice. His delivery seems almost effortless and his stylistic range is diverse. He is comfortable singing Broadway ballads, jazz standards and gospel is a treat for those lucky enough to enjoy one of his performances. He is a gregarious southern gentleman at heart and truly an entertainer that will leave you wanting more. Today Gordon continues to entertain and inspire audiences in theater productions, private functions, charity events and piano bars throughout the region. His reputation as a premiere vocalist has led to performances with internationally known singers Patti Labelle, Jennifer Holiday, James Taylor, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Cissy Houston, Keith Lockhart, Tramaine & Edward Hawkins, Natalie Cole, Harlen Gospel Singers to sing for Pope John Paul II and Hit Man David Foster on his 2009 David Foster & Friends tour. He has been nominated twice for best male vocalist for Jazz & Gospel by the Boston Music Awards and is the recent 2009 Boston Winner of the David Foster singing contest. Gordon has also achieved notoriety as an innovator; creating, hosting and booking the popular Gospel Brunch at the original House of Blues in Harvard Square Cambridge, MA.

Mr. Michaels also tours the country with many of his One Man Cabaret Shows which have been booked in Europe, New York City all over New England and most recently up and down the southeast coast. GLAM was honored when Gordon agreed to do an interview with us and share his knowledge and experiences with us and our readers.

GLAM: The foundation for your music is more gospel and yet you’re doing a little bit of everything. You’re doing Cabaret, you’re doing soul, you’re doing blues. What really inspires you?

GORDON: I’ve always been a performer and I’ve always loved to sing. I feel that I have a gift to touch people and uplift them through song. My heart and soul will always be in gospel because I was raised in the church and that’s my connection, but any type of performance that I can move someone lyrically with songs that I have chosen makes me happy, I’m very very specific about, choosing the songs that I perform, whether they be blues, jazz, gospel or Broadway, the song has to mean something to me. I’ve had to live the lyrics I’m singing about or have it be something that I feel, I am experiencing or want to experience. I have to have a connection with that song so that when I’m delivering it, it is earnest and true. Now being a trained vocalist, I can execute and sing anything, but the connection and the heartfeltness would not be the same.

GLAM: So you don’t write any of your own music? You only sing others songs, the classics, I guess you would say the standards?

GORDON: Correct. I’m not a songwriter, I do not write my own music. I sing covers and I do musicals. My degree is in musical theater. I came to Boston on an opera scholarship to Boston Conservatory and got my degree in musical theater because I switched and opera was just not for me. I do musicals all across the country. I do gospel all over Europe. I’m the creator of the House of Blues Gospel Brunch. I have six or seven one man Cabaret shows that I do all over. I produced Cabaret shows and benefit concerts. I do a lot of charity work, as long as I’m performing I’m happy. Whether on stage or performing concerts for people, as long as I’m singing and touching someone I am a happy camper.

GLAM: You started in your church choir at the age of three, has there ever been anything else other than performing that you wanted to do with your life?

GORDON: I wanted to be a lawyer at one point. I’m really good with math as well, so I got an Associates Degree in Accounting. At one point I wanted to be an engineer. But the reality was I really didn’t have money to go to college and I had the scholarship to go to Boston Conservatory so I took it. I’m kind of like a Jack of all trades. I used to have my own catering company for a while. I started the House of Blues Gospel Brunch and I ran that for almost two years before going overseas to work on cruise ships, I hosted it, was the booking agent, and emceed it, I basically put the whole thing together. Since then I’ve started a few other offshoots for people who wanted to do a Gospel brunch. I’ve run clubs, I’m a bartender, event planner, voice teacher and teach master classes in colleges. It’s just… I do whatever I have to do to survive. I would like to only do music and that would be wonderful, but sometimes the work is not there. The last eight years of the Bush administration made it very difficult for musicians, live music has gone way down, and there just hasn’t been a lot of work, and there hasn’t been a lot of work for big thick black men with voices like mine. Even when you’re trying to do work overseas, they will hire black female vocalists long before they will hire black male vocalists.

GLAM: One thing that I found quite interesting, having interviewed artists that have performed in front of presidents, royalty, diplomats and the like, you are the first artist that I have interviewed to perform in front of the Pope. How intimidating is that to sing in front of the Pope?

GORDON: I have to say it was honestly not that intimidating to me, I guess because I’m not Catholic. That whole pope thing didn’t really mean anything to me, I was just singing as I would have in front of anyone with my religious beliefs, my belief in God and I’m singing in front of a bunch of people who also believe in God. I was a guest soloist with the Harlem Gospel choir and they happened to choose one of the songs that I was leading. There were a lot of people that were on that program, Randy Crawford, Lauryn Hill, some very famous opera singers. There were a whole lotta hobnob bigwigs there. I remember we had to do a rehearsal first, so you do the rehearsal and the Pope is sitting there during the rehearsal. But then we found out that it is being recorded for this Christmas Eve extravaganza program that is apparently played all through Italy and Europe Christmas Eve night. Each of the performers gets to do two songs. After we did the rehearsal and rehearsed our songs, this was Pope John Paul II. He was in a wheelchair and after the rehearsal was finished, he came through. He stopped and told me that I have a big belle voix (big beautiful voice), that is what the translator told me. He stuck out his hand and I unknowingly twisted it, turned it, and shook it. I told him thank you very much, that I was very flattered. Next thing that I know, everyone was looking at me. They told me oh my God I can’t believe you did not kiss his ring. I didn’t know anything about kissing the ring of the Pope because I’m not Catholic. I wasn’t trying to disrespect the man or anything, I just thought he was trying to shake my hand. Looking back I wished that someone would’ve explained to me the protocol that you’re supposed to kiss the ring of the Pope, I just didn’t know.

GLAM: What kind of reaction do you get from the GLBT community when you’re out, meeting new people and mention that you’re a gospel singer?

GORDON: I don’t really know. I don’t necessarily come out and tell them I am a gospel singer. I don’t really like to classify myself like that, I’d classify myself as an entertainer or a vocalist and if they happen to ask me what I sing, I tend to give them all the genres that I perform. I don’t think I’ve ever said that I’m a gospel performer, because I think of myself as so much more than just that and I don’t like to put myself in a box. Gospel is what I love, but I sing mostly jazz and show tunes right now to make my living. I do get to sing once or twice a month at a church that hires me to perform at the 8 o’clock service. They never even asked me if I am a gospel singer, but I’ve never had any problems with that because a lot of the people from the gay community have always come to my concerts and I’ve always played gospel in all of my concerts. I either open with a gospel song or close with a gospel song, but there is always a gospel song in my concerts. Actually the gay community was very supportive to me when I opened the House of Blues. I went to advertise in a gay piano bar.

GLAM: You have performed songs with Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Holliday, James Taylor, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart and Natalie Cole, some of the greatest musicians of our time. Who was the most inspiring to you and why?

GORDON: I would have to say Patti LaBelle. I have sung behind her in gospel groups and gospel choirs maybe four or five times. I would have to say she is the most real person I’ve ever met. For someone with that kind of money, stardom, and fame, she is still just the everyday mama who likes to cook and talks to you real. Natalie Cole was really nice but I didn’t feel the connection that I had with Patti LaBelle. I remember one time when I was singing backup for Patti and she wanted to come to the rehearsal. She comes in, she’s got on jeans and this cute top and she’s just sitting there waving to people. When we all got on stage she said “now don’t ya’ll hold back, Ms. Patti is gonna be given to ya’ll, so ya’ll just come on and bring it, I’m just holding back right now so I can see where ya’ll are at so I don’t out do ya’ll”. Everyone onstage laughed, she was always just so incredibly cool.

GLAM: If you had a chance to work with any artist today, who would it be?

GORDON: I would probably say Gladys Knight. I think she is a very elegant lady and I love her voice, always have. I remember auditioning several times for a tour of Smokey Joe’s Café that she was doing because I wanted to perform with her so bad, but never got the opportunity. I think that our voices would blend really really well and would be an amazing piece of music to hear.

GLAM: How would you describe your style?

GORDON: My style? That’s interesting. I would say I am a classically trained Broadway singer with gospel overtones.

GLAM: You’ve been around for a minute, performing for a few years. What advice would you have for new artists that are just getting started?

GORDON: First, you need perseverance and then I would say you need really tough skin. The rejection out there is fierce. It is easy for you to lose your way, to lose your faith about what you do, but you have got to believe in yourself and take your dreams and go for it. I just recently won a Boston singing competition with David Foster, well in October of 2009, but if you had asked me a year ago if I ever thought I would meet David Foster, I would’ve answered no. It is strange what doors open when you are least expecting it. That contest, I wasn’t going to enter, it was like a fluke. I didn’t know anything about it and a friend of mine sent me an e-mail about it. I read over the rules then looked at the website. It was put on by David Foster & Friends concert tour along with Name Drop.com. I remember looking at all the videos of all these young kids and thinking that I can’t compete with them. I’m thinking it’s gonna be more of an American Idol type thing. I called the people and asked if there was an age limit or an age cutoff for this contest. They just said to send in my music video. So I sent in a video from my YouTube posting and out of 10,000 videos they would pick 100. I had gotten a phone call that said I was one of the hundred so of course I was shocked. I just figured it was gonna end up in the trash somewhere. Then later I get a call that says I have been picked out of 100 for the top 10 and within the next 24 hours I might be getting a call to participate in the competition in Boston. Then I had gotten a call, just after I finished an audition for yet another musical. I was outside, walking down the street and I get a call from so-and-so at Name Drop.com, ‘we would just like to let you know that you been selected to be one of the Boston contestants for the David Foster competition, can you be there on October 25th?’ I immediately had to stop and sit down and I asked the woman you’re not blanking with me? You’re telling me I’m going to be singing on stage with David Foster? She said no, you will be singing on stage with David Foster and he will be playing for you and next thing you know I was singing on the tour with them here in Boston and won.

GLAM: What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your career?

GORDON: Currently I kind of feel that my age is working against me, age and my training. If you listen to me sing, I would say I sing R&B, but I don’t really have that R&B sound, that new R&B sound I call it, where everybody sings through their nose, has that kind of nasal twang of the new Hip Hop R&B sound. I’m more of the old R&B sound like Levi Stubbs. When they hear me sing they mention my big voice but then they suggest that I should be on Broadway, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing I can do. It’s almost like they don’t know what to do with me. They know I’m talented, they’re interested in my voice, they like the way I sing but, they can’t seem to find a market for me.

GLAM: In the end, say 30 or 40 years from now, how is it that you want to be remembered? When they say oh yeah, I remember Gordon Michaels, he was…

GORDON: I’d like them to say, he was a great guy and very uplifting when you heard him sing.

By: N. Derrick DeCorte - GLAM Magazine

"Gordon Michaels Unforgettable-A Tribute to Nat King Cole"

Gordon Michaels’s Unforgettable – A Tribute to Nat “King” Cole at Danny’s Seafood Cabaret was exactly that, a tribute, not an imitation of the expressive, relaxed Cole sound. “I have too much Broadway and gospel to in my voice to sound like Nat “King” Cole,” says Michaels. Cole was a singer and pianist extraordinaire; attempts at imitating that lush velvety tenor tone usually don’t work so Michaels sings from the vast Nat “King” Cole songbook, which is how it should be.
With a resonant baritone and gospel-flavored vocal tone, Michaels seems to be channeling a Baptist minister rather than the cool Cole, engaging the audience with catty quips and personal asides as well as some bio on his subject. Musically, he embraces a variety of moods, with the jump blues of Straighten Up and Fly Right, an easy loping down Route 66, and swinging, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. With his gospel background and theatrical stage persona, Michaels presents his songs with a fiery passion. He especially loves ballads, he tells us, and mines the earthy depth in his voice to deliver tunes like, Nature Boy, Mona Lisa and When I Fall in Love with enough vocal embroidery to redesign, but not totally overwhelm the melody.
Michaels keeps the show focused on its subject, but the star is Gordon Michaels and no mistake about it. He has the audience singing along with L*O*V*E and Orange Colored Sky, and by the end, the show has taken on the vigor of a Baptist church meeting rather than a romantic nightcap with Nat “King” Cole.
Accompanied by Brad Ross on piano, Boston-based Michaels is a welcome visitor to New York, with or without Nat “King” Cole.
- Cabaret Scenes

"Legendary Tributes"

Boston-based singer Gordon Michaels made his New York cabaret debut paying respectful tribute to Nat King Cole in his one-nighter at Danny's Skylight Room last week. His darkly rich, soulful baritone and gregarious way with an audience earn this guy a gold star. His show, "Unforgettable: A Tribute to Nat King Cole," with Michael Larson as musical director, was possibly the strongest entry in the current tribute rage. The milestones and signature Cole songs were in abundance and beautifully performed. However, it was Michaels' good nature, powerful voice, and vibrant presence that carried the show. Experienced in musical theatre and gospel shows, he captivated his audience with ease. Too, his sense of humor sold the rest of a package that is sure to make big waves once he gains the right exposure. He's a thrilling new voice on the cabaret scene.

- Backstage - Bistro Bits


Just have one CD that is self entitled Gordon Michaels and has 10 tracks on it.You can hear tracks from my CD on my websites



Attending a Gordon Michaels performance is an opportunity to experience a deeply personal expression of the soul through music. Music has been an integral part of his life from the age of 3 as a singer in his churches' children choir, and quickly developed into a passion by the time he was accepted into the New York City’s Music and Arts High School. Watch closely and you can catch a glimpse of Gordon in the film “Fame”, which was made during his matriculation at the school. Noted as an exceptional talent by the academic staff, Gordon was encouraged to further his training. He earned a scholarship from the renowned Boston Conservatory of Music where obtained his BFA in Musical Theater.

Powerful is a word that most people would use to describe his smooth baritone voice. His delivery seems almost effortless and his stylistic range is diverse. He’s comfortable performing Broadway ballads, jazz standards, blues, R&B oldies, gospel and yes even country. It is a treat for those lucky enough to enjoy one of his performances. He is a gregarious southern gentleman at heart and truly an entertainer that will leave you wanting more.

Today Gordon resides in Boston and continues to entertain and inspire audiences in theater productions, private functions, charity events and piano bars throughout the region. His reputation as a premiere vocalist has led to performances with internationally known singers Patti Labelle, Jennifer Holiday, James Taylor, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Cissy Houston, Keith Lockhart, Tramaine & Edward Hawkins and Natalie Cole. His talents have also garnered numerous awards including 1st place in the Encore Silver Note Sing Off in 2000 as well as 1st place in the Searching for the Stars competition in 1996. He has been nominated twice for best male vocalist for Jazz and Gospel by the Boston Music Awards in 1993 & 1995. Gordon has also achieved notoriety as an innovator, creating and hosting the popular Gospel Brunch at the original House of Blues in Harvard Square Cambridge, MA.

Mr. Michaels has taught voice and many master classes in "Performance Delivery and Connection to a Song". He has also produced many cabaret shows and benefits around town for such charities as the AIDS Action Committee, Make a Wish foundation, The Living Center, and the Tsunami Relief Fund.

In 2002 he did his 9th tour of "Ain't Misbehavin", was in "Civil War" the musical in one of the lead roles, and performed in a 25-week tour of "Smokey Joe's Café" in the role of Adrian. In 2003 he returned from a four-week gospel tour as guest soloist with the Harlem Gospel Choir in Italy where he sang for Pope John Paul II at his Christmas and Holiday TV special. Mr. Michaels was once again in "Smokey Joe's Café" as Adrian at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine where he obtained Equity status. Gordon was also featured lead vocalist with the very popular Boston based band Bellevue Cadillac. With Bellevue Gordon did a three week concert tour in Shanghai, China and

also opened for the Neville Brothers at the Democratic National Convention in Boston for the Blue Dog Democrats.

In 2005 Gordon was one of the leads in a baseball musical review called "Diamonds" in Montpelier, VT. He also reprised the role of Adrian in "Smokey Joe's Café" in Columbus, GA. at the Springer Opera House.

For the last five years Mr. Michaels has been writing and performing to rave reviews for many of his own One Man Cabaret Shows: "I'm Misbehavin" - The Songs I Never Get To Sing By Fats Waller, "Broadway Revue In Colour" - Hit Songs From Black Broadway Shows, “Unforgettable - A Tribute to Nat King Cole” and "Music of Our Great Soul Brothers". Mr. Michaels was a member of The Patterson Chorale performing gospel music at over 50 venues throughout France. In addition, Mr. Michaels formed and performs as a member of the gospel trio Az One with Darlene Wynn and James A. Early. Az One initially performed at the Acton Jazz Café Gospel Brunch and now performs at gospel brunches throughout New England. His last big venture was his fifth Cabaret Getaway Weekend for Cabaret Month, which is celebrated in March. This was co-produced with Tommy Hensel and had some of Boston's best artist showing off their talents.

Look for Mr. Michaels on the cabaret scene in NYC with Tony Perry in their new show "Music of Our Great Soul Brothers" This is an oldies show with music from the men that made soul music what it is today. They had great sold out shows at Helen's Hideaway in Chelsea, NY in April 2007 and in June 2007. They have toured the show to Maine, NH Gloucester,MA & Boston,MA in 2008-2009. Michaels also produced an 8-week cabaret series in 2008 in Boston with some of New England's best artists, kicking off this series with his own "I'm Misbehavin" show. Michael’s has just performed yet another sold out concert in NYC with his one man show “Black On Broadway” which was June 2010 at the Triad Theater. And just performed his 4th sold out show i