Johnny Rodgers
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Johnny Rodgers

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1974 | MAJOR

Chicago, Illinois, United States | MAJOR
Established on Jan, 1974
Solo Americana Jazz

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"The New York Times review"

Dose of Nostalgia for What Never Was
by Stephen Holden, The New York Times

“Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” isn’t just the title of the easygoing standard by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer that describes the vagabond life of a happy-go-lucky drifter. It could be the theme song of Johnny Rodgers, a bandleader, singer-songwriter, pianist and traditional jazzman, who suggests the tow-headed boy next door striding down a country road as he travels from one style to another.

At the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, where he and his band began a three-week engagement on Tuesday evening, Mr. Rodgers, who was brought up in Miami, dropped his imaginary hat on many posts. The majority were in the mythical “Southland” celebrated in “The Birth of the Blues,” a song he and his musicians took at a brisk pace and pointedly resisted turning into an anthem.

A nostalgic Southern ambiance was the defining quality of Mr. Rodgers’s music at Tuesday’s opening-night show. He is a steady pop-jazz crooner whose voice acquires more personality and confidence the more forcefully he sings. “It Should’ve Been Me” evoked early Ray Charles, and a breezy “Jailhouse Rock” paid tribute to the King himself.

The rambunctiously funny “Huggin’ and Chalkin’ ” a song associated with Hoagy Carmichael, celebrated the charms of a 303-pound “baby blimp” named Rosabelle Magee, whose suitors carry pieces of chalk to mark their places as they circle around her from opposite directions and risk colliding.

Here Mr. Rodgers and his musicians conjured a hazy realm of folk-blues-pop-country-jazz innocence where mountain dew sparkles on a haystack as farm boys in overalls cavort with girls in gingham dresses, and the strains from a juke joint down the road drift across a field. If it wasn’t “authentic” in any scholarly sense, it made for an engaging fantasy concocted by a grown-up Andy Hardy.

Mr. Rodgers and his band members even have roustabout nicknames: he is “Poppy Sunshine,” the bassist Brian Glassman “Mud Man,” the drummer Danny Mallon “Mad Dog,” and the guitarist Joe Ravo, who on one number made his instrument sound like a banjo, “Cotton Eye Joe.”

There is another side to Mr. Rodgers, the canny pop craftsman, which came through in his heartfelt ballads. ““The Best of You in Me” (written with Richard Barone) echoes the Celine Dion hit “Because You Loved Me,” and “Sweet Georgia Smile,” is an appealing honeysuckle lullaby of eternal devotion.

So who, finally, is this talented chameleon? If you fused elements of Billy Joel, Peter Allen and Johnny Mercer, a silhouette begins to emerge. - Stephen Holden


"BACKSTAGE - Birdland NYC review"

"Johnny Rodgers is... such a walking cornucopia of talent that you stare at him (he's cute as Kevin Costner in his heyday) in near disbelief and wonder if there's anything he can't do."

So the cabaret year doesn't end with a bang but with a band, big and contemporary style — not with a whimper but with a winner. It's the Johnny Rodgers Band, led, natch, by Johnny Rodgers, who's such a walking cornucopia of talent that you stare at him (he's cute as Kevin Costner in his heyday) in near disbelief and wonder if there's anything he can't do.

What does Rodgers do? He sings. He plays the piano. He plays the guitar. He writes songs. He arranges them. He conducts the band. He jokes with the audience. He scintillates at every single endeavor and still manages to look abashed. Why, the guy even dances, although not during this one-night gig but as one of the four fellows accompanying Liza Minnelli at the Palace on the tribute to her godmother, the late, great Kay Thompson.

On her and their night off, Minnelli introed Rodgers after Birdland on Broadway host and fellow Thompson singer-dancer Jim Caruso introed Minnelli. Yes, it was that sort of evening. Rodgers and Minnelli didn't sing together, though. For that, the fastest approach is to listen to their "Let's Make a Date" duet at johnnyrodgers.com.

Given the profusion of Rodgers' talents, it's a challenge knowing where to begin praising him. Because songs often outlast performing careers, perhaps it makes sense to note immediately that Rodgers' gift for melody is huge. Through the set, the songs he delivered in his rich, smooth baritone were mostly written by him. And — there's no other way to put it — each one topped the one preceding it, in many genres. Or as Billy Stritch joining Rodgers for a propulsive read-through of the Jon Hendricks-Count Basie "Down for Double" said, "The only thing I haven't heard is a polka."

Indeed, were there such things these days as instant standards, Rodgers would have a string of them — titles including the Christmassy "Lord Let the Angels Sing," the father tribute "The Best of Me in You" (written with his Box of Photographs CD producer Richard Barone), "Mary Jean", "Movin' Into Graceland" (written with Brian Wilson), "Home to Mendocino," "One More Moment" (lyric co-written by Lina Koutrakos), and the anthemlike "Bound Together" (written with Danny Mallon), which is very smartly tailored to today's aching for global understanding. Among the non-self-penned songs, besides the Basie-Hendricks swinger, were two Randy Newman prime cuts, "You Can Leave Your Hat On" and "Feels Like Home," and two by Carol Hall, the opener "Big City Boogie" and "Change in Me."

Singing while playing, Rodgers has his own virile charm but at the same time suggests what might have happened if Elton John, Billy Joel, Billy Preston, and Leon Russell had all been born in the same body. Rodgers has the same kind of heavy chord chops, and he likes to arrange with that kind of jazz-rock oomph. He gets funny on his subjects too. Mentioning that when he took up guitar, he realized his leaning toward various instruments affects how he composes, he said he'd written "Mary Jean" on the egg, that percussive object musicians and singers love wielding. He proceeded to demonstrate.

For the record, the musicians cookin' with gas included Stritch, Brian Glassman, Danny Mallon, Joe Ravo, Nick Celeste, Ross Konikoff, Frank Perowsky, Dave Trigg, Ed Xiques and vocalists Barone, Margaret Dorn, Janice Pendaris, and Georgia "Mrs. Rodgers" DeFalco. Magnums of champagne for all. Jeroboams for Johnny.
- David Finkle


"Jazz Times"

"Entering the national pop-jazz radar, singer-songwriter-pianist, Johnny Rodgers is definitely one to watch. A bit of a vocal chameleon, Rodgers proves himself a consistently engaging troubabdour."
- Christopher Loudon


"The New York Observer & Chicago Tribune"

“…A finger-popping pianist with range and style who also writes challenging songs and sings terrifically.” - Rex Reed

“…A first-rate singer-songwriter, bursting with robust vocals and exuberant pianism.” -Howard Reich - Rex Reed & Howard Reich


"Next Magazine"

Celebrating the end of Liza’s at the Palace… and the release of two new CDs, singer-songwriter-actor-dancer Johnny Rodgers is on a roll. He appeared with his group, The Johnny Rodgers Band, for one night at Birdland on December 29 and had the kids rockin’ in the aisles. Introduced Rodgers was the lady herself, and Liza was in fine form, extolling the virtues of wunderkind Rodgers and staying to watch his performance like a proud mother hen. For his part, as he displayed on his breakout disc, A Box of Photographs (PS Classics), Rodgers excels in every genre of music. With a light, throbbing, lyric tenor that reminds you of lemonade with a shot of bourbon, Rodgers sailed through a set that included old favorites and tunes from his new disc with his band. Unfortunately, Liza didn’t join him to sing their new single, “Let’s Make a Date,” but there’s no doubt they’ll be singing it in concert soon.
- David Hurst


"Talkin' Broadway - review new release BOUND TOGETHER"

..."The Best of You In Me" is touching and is movingly sung, but with admirable restraint. Its solid pop structure and economic use of short phrases and effective repetition evoke instant feelings of remembered moments of parental support ("every slip, every fall, every catch of every baseball"), like a little box of photographs.

The more serious side of Johnny Rodgers comes through wonderfully and satisfyingly on his 4-song EP, a moving work with life-affirming themes. Top-billed "Bound Together" is a socially conscious song about all of us being part of one human family, emphasizing the frustrating tragedy of those who don't act accordingly, divisive instead ("all the fighting in the name of gods"). Not really a downer at all, but more an assertive anthem of peace and hope ("together we can make it right"), it harks back to pacifist songs of the 1960s with more determined optimism. Sung with impassioned determination to simply state its message of our common humanity, the title repeats often as the music builds and rises. This is a fairly simple number, with its message as clear as the bright vocals. It's Johnny's melody and the words a collaboration with the drummer from his band, Danny Mallon, who also joins in on vocals.

"Cry for Freedom" also rings with hope while being equally open-eyed realistic and advocating what the title suggests ("Let the whole world hear you"). This and the highlight of the EP, "The Best of You In Me," are collaborations between Johnny and his producer/co-arranger, versatile Richard Barone (also heard on some vocal blends, which are prominent in the more pleading songs). The most well crafted and lyrically astute and specific, with nostalgic images of the bonding moments between parent and grateful grown child, the gentle "The Best of You In Me" is touching and is movingly sung, but with admirable restraint. Its solid pop structure and economic use of short phrases and effective repetition evoke instant feelings of remembered moments of parental support ("every slip, every fall, every catch of every baseball"), like a little box of photographs.

A non-cloying Christmas song about a Christmas song, with nods to the religious aspects and the importance of keeping loved ones close and cherished, "Lord Let the Angels Sing" is another sincere and guileless embrace of humanity and faith. Featured on vocals—though I wish he were more prominent as he is one of my favorite contemporary singers but his mellowness makes his presence more subtle—is Ben Taylor. This track is also available separately as a single, issued this past Christmas. Let's hope for another full-length album soon by the very appealing and musically adept Johnny Rodgers. It's been a long wait since his strong debut.
- Rob Lester


"All Music.com, Music Connection, JAZZIZ"

"Johnny Rodgers with his clean-cut all-American looks, star-making moniker, James Taylor-lush voice, and résumé that includes shared stages with Paul McCartney, Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein, and Chrissie Hynde (in addition to starring off-Broadway in Our Sinatra), singer/songwriter and keyboardist Johnny Rodgers seemed destined for big things even before the release of his spectacular debut. But the real achievement of this glorious whirlwind of 12 original songs is the way it celebrates artistic independence in a world of cookie-cutter artists and hyper-restrictive radio formatting. That is, he's comfortable singing and swinging in all styles — soaring piano-driven pop ballads ("Box of Photographs"), moody jazz ("Midday Moon," featuring Randy Brecker’s beautiful muted trumpet), Taylor-flavored confessional pop-folk ("Is It the Way?"), gospel-country ("Mary Jean"), and samba ("She"). That list covers only the first five tracks, which hints at Rodgers' powerful artistic depth that must drive marketing folks crazy. There's a definite Southern charm throughout, which he explores via funky, bluesy trips to visit "Miss Dixie" and Elvis territory via "Movin' into Graceland." As a lyricist, he scores best on "In the End," a wonderful tribute to his father whose images rank up there with the best of country songwriters. There's just no end to the praise Rodgers deserves for following muses that make sure he doesn't remain in any single comfort zone for too long. If this 'Box of Photographs' collection is any indication of what's to come, Rodgers will be an across-the-board superstar and an inspiration to millions of artists who don't fit neatly into a single genre."
- Jonathan Widran


"El Nuevo Herald, Miami"

Johnny Rodgers Band are the true epitome of what is usually called “jazz fusion'' that is the result of the mixture of many things. A composer and spectacular pianist, this singer is a true dynamo on stage, who jumps from one style to another with the security of an expert trapezist: jazz, pop, rock. His versatility is uncommon and very authentic. He knows how to savor a ballad like the most veteran of crooners -- he sang like Ray Charles and he confessed that he was an admirer of Mel Tormé, in whose style he sang “Give Me the Simple Life” -- and also to put flavor to the most rhythmic creations. “She,” an original song of his own inspiration, was very well received by the public, and no less satisfactory his interpretation of “Take Another Chance on Love.” - Daniel Fernandez


Discography

Johnny Rodgers with the Johnny Rodgers Band

  • Legends Of American Music Vol. 1 - Melody Thread 2012 - Produced by JRB
  • Bound Together - Melody Thread 2008 - Produced by Richard Barone - Special Guest, Ben Taylor
  • Let's Make A Date - Melody Thread 2008 - Produced by Richard Barone - Special Guest, Liza Minnelli
  • Lord Let The Angels Sing - Melody Thread 2008 - Produced by Richard Barone - Special Guest Ben Taylor
  • Box of Photographs - PS Classics 2005 - Produced by Richard Barone
  • In Good Company - Lee Lessack -  LML Music 2005
  • Waiting for the Glaciers to Melt - Brian Lane Green - LML Music 2005

Johnny Rodgers Recordings/Songs

  • Liza's At The Palace - Hybrid Recordings 2008 - Produced by Phil Ramone
  • "I Would Never Leave You" written by Johnny Rodgers, Billy Stritch, Brian Lane Green - Produced by Liza Minnelli - winner of the 2009 Tony Award and Independent Theatre Reviewers Association (ITRA) Award
  • Hallways: The Songs of Carol Hall, "Chance in Me" - LML Music 2008
  • Sweethearsts: Milti-Artist Pop Hits Vol. 1, "Special Light" - Oceanlight Records 2008
  • Jule Styne in Hollywood, "Brooklyn Bridge" - PS Classics 2006
  • 3 Men and a Baby...Grand, Salute the Rat Pack - LML Music 2006
  • "Little Kisses" - Jolie Jones Music 2006
  • Maury Yeston Song Book, "Danglin" - PS Classics 2003

Photos

Bio

JOHNNY RODGERS is an internationally celebrated singer-songwriter, pianist, music ambassador, Broadway star, and recording artist who is described by Stephen Holden, from The New York Times, as an entertainer “who has show business in his bones” with “fused elements of Billy Joel, Peter Allen and Johnny Mercer.”


Whether its solo or with his band, Johnny Rodgers dazzles audiences with his Americana mélange of original songs and classic favorites. 
An official Ambassador of American Music, Johnny tours for the U.S. Department of State to places such as the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.  He has toured Russia and performed with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra as well as with Igor Butman and his Jazz Orchestra. This June, he and the Johnny Rodgers Band travel to Minsk, Belarus to perform for the US Embassy Independence Day Celebration and the Grodno Jazz Festival.


Johnny Rodgers doubles as Music Director and piano man for Liza Minnelli performances & Tours. He has starred in and written the song, “I Would Never Leave You” for Liza’s Tony Award®-winning Liza’s At The Palace, which was filmed and released by PBS television. Johnny has earned New York’s Nightlife, Bistro and MAC awards for his performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Jazz At Lincoln Center, Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, and other premiere clubs. His songwriting has been recognized with Billboard and ASCAP Foundation awards.

Band Members