Russ Lorenson
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Russ Lorenson

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"Neo-crooner Lorenson shines in Rrazz debut"

Keep your eyes and ears open for Russ Lorenson’s next show.

If you care about quality cabaret – the elusive art that lives in a specific region where pop, jazz and theater intersect – you’ll care about Lorenson, a local singer making his way steadily through the best rooms in the country.

Lorenson made his official Rrazz Room debut Sunday night in a show called “Standard Time” which attempts to demonstrate that the Great American Songbook did not stop being written in 1959. Lorenson contends that great songs in the standard style are still being written, and that’s why his set list concentrates on tunes written in the last 20 years or so.

In a white shirt, black vest and jaunty fedora, Lorenson opened the show with Andrew Lippa’s “Raise the Roof” (from the off-Broadway musical “The Wild Party”) and proceeded to, well, raise the roof a little.

You could say Lorenson is part of the neo-croonerism pack that includes Harry Connick Jr., Michael Buble, Jamie Cullum and Peter Cincotti. He cares about being cool and suave and sexy in his vocal stylings, but unlike a lot of the pack, he’s not interested in aping King Crooner Frank Sinatra.

If anything, Lorenson is more Tony Bennett (to whom he has paid tribute in a previous show) with his smooth, muscular voice. Where Bennett often tries to crack the sky with his belt, Lorenson is more sensitive and supple in regulating the power of his voice.

In a generous set of 19 tunes, Lorenson uncovered some real treasures to prove his point that great songs are still in ample supply. Ronny Whyte and Francesca Blumenthal’s “The Party Upstairs” is a sharp examination of loneliness that ends with a clever, hopeful twist, while Tony Desare and Mike Lee’s “How I Will Say I Love You” is pure, heart-melting romance. Another sweetly romantic tune is Chris Rice’s “When Did You Fall?” about friends turning that tricky corner and becoming lovers.

A fair portion of the set list, entertaining as it is, has a sameness to it. The songs have that pleasant finger-snapping vibe that’s pleasant, but the songs themselves are fairly stock romantic stuff. The one exception is Michael Garin’s comedy number “My Hand,” a raunchy ode to onanism.

But even the more ordinary songs are elevated by Lorenson’s extraordinary quartet. Music director/pianist Kelly Park provides all the arrangements, and they are gorgeous. As a pianist, Park has romance in his fingers, and his work, especially on Peter and Cynthia Cincotti’s “I Changed the Rules,” is stellar. As a songwriter, Park provides some charming songs as well: “Fools in Love,” which he wrote in high school (and is the show’s oldest song), and “Diamond in the Sky,” a variation on “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” written for his daughter.

Brian Carmody provides a sturdy drum foundation, and Tom Hubbard gives a master class in the musicality of the bass. And Terrence Brewer on a plugged-in guitar lends the quartet a distinctive sound that’s part 1950s and part now. His playing is stunning, and his duet with Lorenson on Maury Yeston’s “Danglin’” is a set highlight.

Special guest Andrea Marcovicci, whose own show, “Marcovicci Sings Movies II,” opens Tuesday, Oct. 14 and runs through Nov. 2 on the Rrazz stage, stopped by to lend a little star power and congratulate Lorenson, a former student at “cabaret camp.” She sang “Two for the Road” and got off the evening’s best line as she observed an elderly woman in the front row enjoying a cocktail: “I like to see people of a certain age drinking.”

The charming Lorenson could stand to talk a little more to his audience, and he would also do well to throw in a few familiar tunes, which help the audience relax into the music and give Lorenson to show off his ability to put a personal stamp on something we already know.

In this showcase of newer tunes, Lorenson saved the best for last. His encore number is a very new song. Inspired by the title of a comedy song written by Ronny Graham for “New Faces of 1952,” Lorenson and Park took the title, “It’s Raining Memories,” and wrote a whole new song – a gorgeous song with texture and emotion and no veneer of cool. - Chad Jones, San Francisco Examiner


""Is San Francisco the talent capital of the world?""


Quips were flying at the blowout CD Party for the release of Russ Lorenson’s new CD. On the album are some of the greatest Standards in musical history – “Come Fly With Me”, “Let’s Get Away From it All”, “Moon Light In Vermont” and “I Love Paris.” There are many more wonderful songs in this great feel-good package, some with duets with Shawn Ryan and Klea Blackhurst. Not only does Lorenson have the soul of the greats –Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other dream crooners of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s – he has the Kelly Park band with him to really bring those decades to life. With Kelly Park on piano is Reid Whatley on Bass, Adam Goodhue on Drums and the absolutely fantastic Tony Malfatti who plays Sax, Clarinet and flute. Not only does he play them – he twists and turns each note as if he were entwining us with come hither sounds. No wonder the audience was jumping up and down – their seats were on fire.

Lorenson calls this CD “A Little Travelin’ Music” – for good reason. Since he is singing songs so identified with such famous voices – he has to show that he still can bring something fresh to them. Lorenson has done that and more. He has worked amazing, sometimes quirky arrangements of these almost lost gems. Rarely do we hear any of them sung anymore – so, this makes the CD and hearing him in person a really delightful treat.

Out of all of this we learned that Lorenson is also working on a show about Tony Bennett. He sang many of Bennett’s songs at the Plush Room – and you know what? He was just tremendous. He really has the phrasing down pat. The show is set to premiere at the Empire Plush Room on Aug. 8-9th. And, of course I will see you there.

ALL IN ALL…THIS WAS A FULL NON-STOP EVENING OF GREAT ENTERTAINMENT. LORENSON PULLED IT ALL TOGETHER AND GAVE US AN EVENING OF GREAT VOCALS AND PURE EXHILARATION IN A SHOW FILLED WITH ENERGY AND SKILLFULLY PERFORMED SONGS FOR THE SPIRIT.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! And a recipient of The Lee Hartgrave FAME AWARD FOR BEST CABARET PERFORMANCE. - Lee Hartgrave, BeyondChron.org


""Russ Lorenson at The Empire Plush Room""


Russ Lorenson is a rising young singer who recently played the Empire Plush Room prior to heading east to debut at Helen's Hideaway Room in Manhattan April 15-16. He will embark on a 15-city tour through the United States and the United Kingdom following that date promoting his CD called A Little Travelin' Music.

Russ is an elegant performer who has faultless musical taste and vocal phrasing. He has a voice that is reminiscent of some of the great singers like Tony Bennett, Chet Baker and a little of Mel Torme. Russ's voice is flexible when he sings both swinging and romantic songs. The San Diego Union-Tribune said that his act is "relaxed, (with) easy deliveries ... that seem natural and heartfelt." I am inclined to agree with that statement. Russ is also a delightful raconteur as he talks about his travels when he was setting up computer programs for companies in Europe and Asia.

Since his breakout club debut last year, Russ has established a reputation as one of the Bay Area's leading interpreters of jazz standards. He is backed by a terrific jazz quartet with Kelly Park (the musical director and pianist), Adam Goodhue on drums, Tony Malfatti on sax, clarinet and flute, and Reid Whatley on bass - they captivate the audience with their cool arrangements.

Russ Lorenson centers his 90-minute act on his traveling over one million air miles to various countries around the world. Along the way the audience hears songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer and Cy Coleman. Between the songs he tells wonderful stories about foreign foods from these lands and the wonderful adventures he had traveling. The act is cleverly conceived and a beautifully balanced program of jazz standards and a few obscure Broadway gems.

Lorenson enters the small stage carrying a suitcase with various logos on the front and back, singing Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn's "Come Fly with Me" in a swinging up beat arrangement that gets the show off to a good start. The singer changes to a salsa beat with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes's "The Girl from Ipanema." His pleasurable voice is cool when he sings a medley of George Gershwin's "A Foggy Day In London Town" and Manning Sherwin and Eric Maschwitz's "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," done a capella. He does a wonderful New York medley that concludes with "New York, New York." There is a rarely heard Bernie Hanighen and Johnny Mercer song, "The Air Minded Executive," sung with an agile voice. The cabaret artist is droll when he sings Noel Coward's "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" His voice has thematic resonance when singing John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf's "Moonlight in Vermont" and Amy Foster-Skylark and Jeremy Lubbock's "Home to Stay."

Sax player Tony Malfatti does a vibrant jazz solo when Russ sings Cole Porter's "I Love Paris" and then the singer does a great camp rendition of Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse's "Gay Paree" from Victor, Victoria. Russ ends the segment with, what else, Bronislau Kaper and Walter Jurmann 1936 song "San Francisco".

Russ Lorenson played the Empire Plush Room on March 14, 2006. The room is located in the historic York Hotel, 940 Sutter Street, San Francisco. Russ's CD, A Little Travelin' Music, will be coming out in May of this year on the LML Music label. - Richard Connema, TalkinBroadway.com


""Jazz: Great American Songbook""


Russ Lorenson is a performer that is reminiscent of the old greats — classic performers that not only sang, but also added a
touch of stellar acting to their show. With his debut album A Little Travelin’ Music which features songs from his cabaret
show, Lorenson will remind people how jazz music is about the expression of the words sung. His voice transcends
mainstream artists and is placed in a category in itself, one where the world of acting and jazz are interchangeable in the
music spectrum.

Lorenson broke through the jazz club scene in San Francisco in 2005 with a series of cabaret performances that quickly
established him as an accomplished cabaret performer, even though he was fairly new to the art of cabaret.

“I really started to explore the art form of cabaret about a year ago,” Lorenson said. He stated that he really loves the form of
cabaret. It could be due to cabaret allowing a person to be a true performer, something that Lorenson is familiar with. He has
performed various theater productions in San Francisco such as Red, Hot and Blue!, 1776 and The Golden Apple. With
Lorenson’s acting abilities it was only a matter of time before he would blend the two things he loved the most together,
however, before he could do that he needed material that he could talk about to the audience to fit a 90-minute performance
in which 30 to 40 percent is dialogue.

This is where Lorenson searches back to where his life led him to the dot com buzz. Taking a job in the high-tech world
meant that he would be traveling more than he had ever before this experience, and has since set the stage for Lorenson’s act
A Little Travelin’ Music, which has also led to the debut of his album.

“My life has always been made up of the Great American Songbook,” Lorenson said.

Having traveled the world during his stint as a dot comer allowed him to see the world and experience new things. But after
getting that out of his system Lorenson came back full force to his two loves — singing and acting.

Lorenson stated that he believes that acting and singing jazz music has a strong connection. The two are interchangeable and
complement each other, because “You gotta be able to get across the lyric,” Lorenson said. It’s a mini play. It’s a love story.
Whatever the song is about there’s a certain element of getting it across.”

It is undeniable to know that Lorenson is a true performer. He has paid his dues singing for years and is now gaining the
success that has been due to him for years by now. Lorenson has gained enough esteem to be able to honor one of the greats,
Tony Bennett, in an upcoming tribute cabaret performance Benedetto/Blessed: A Tribute to the Life and Music of Tony
Bennett.

“I wanted to pull some obscure songs [from] his recordings,” Lorenson said.

He is doing just that and making the tribute all his own and so far the show has received a great response and is being booked
at various venues in California. Following the [August] Bennett cabaret performances Lorenson will delve into an art of
cabaret workshop with the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp. The intensive week-long workshop will strengthen as
well as teach those who are accepted into the workshop the art of the time-honored form that is cabaret. “I’ll be learning how
to expose myself as Russ instead of putting myself up as a character,” Lorenson said.

After things settle down a bit for Lorenson he’ll have time to devote to the goals he has established early on in his career.
“I’m not looking for fame and fortune; it’s not who I am in terms of the kind of music I do,” Lorenson said. “I’d like to be
recognized as a good custodian of the Great American Songbook. I want to be true to the music I’m doing. I want to be considered one
of the good guys.”

Upcoming Lorenson performances include a visit to Austin to perform at the Austin Cabaret Theatre 2006 Gala Fundraiser where
Lorenson will be opening for Eartha Kitt. The performance is on Friday, July 28 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at The Mansion at Judges’
Hill. Tickets are from $175 to $300, call 512-453-ACTS for more information. - Jennifer Herrera, The Juice Weekly


""Russ Lorenson Returns to the Empire Plush Room with his Tribute to Tony Bennett""


Russ Lorenson has brought the crooner style back to the cabaret scene and what better presentation but to pay tribute of one the great popular singers of the 20th Century, Tony Bennett. Russ had a task trying to pick twenty five songs out of the more than 2000 songs that Tony has recorded during his professional career (which is still going strong).

Russ's voice is very reminiscent of those singers that I used to hear when the 52nd Street cabarets were the cat's meow. You hear a little of Tony Bennett along with Chet Baker as he belts out a song. Russ calls his show "Benedetto/Blessed: A Tribute to the Life and Music of Tony Bennett", since the famous singer’s birth name is Anthony Dominick Benedetto. Bob Hope christened him Tony Bennett as the singer was started on the road of success.

Lorenson intersperses facts about the legendry singer throughout his show. Russ states that an early voice coach told Mr. Bennett "Never compromise--only perform the very best music". That is what Lorenson does during his cabaret show.

Russ picks out not only the songs that made Tony famous but little known songs such as Jack Segal and Robert Well's "When Joanna Loved Me" or the lovely "Antonia" with music and lyrics by the same persons. Russ called this segment "Tony's Children Medley" since these are the names of Tony's children. The segment ends with a soft arrangement of "Danny Boy", in honor of Tony’s oldest son Danny. It is a charming way to end that segment.

The artist easily delivers some of Tony's great early hits like "Strangers in Paradise", "Rags to Riches" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Although Tony Bennett never liked novelty songs, he did sing a wild song called "In The Middle of An Island" that the singer was force to sing. Russ brings two audience members up on stage and dresses them with straw skirts to dance a hula to this melody. Even the excellent back up orchestra had to wear straw hats and leis.

Russ sings a beautiful arrangement of "The Shadow of Your Smile," the exquisite song by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster, and the ever popular song "Just in Time" written by Jule Styne with lyrics by Comden and Green. The poignant number by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, "Who Can I Turn Too" is ardently sung. There were swinging arrangements of Irving Berlin's "Steppin’ Out With My Baby" and Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh's "The Best is Yet to Come."

Russ uses a mike through the whole evening, but decides to turn off the mike and use only Kelly Park on piano, Reid Whatley on bass and Eric Thompson on drums in the plaintive Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson's "Lost in the Stars". This was “choice” as those Warner Brothers gagsters use to say.

The cabaret artist also did a set with only Reid Whatley on bass and Kelly Park on drums to a "Rhythm" medley that included Joseph Mayer/ Rodger W. Kahn's "Crazy Rhythm", George and Ira Gershwin's "Fascinatin’ Rhythm" and the Gershwin's "Slap That Bass". The rhythms are pulsated from both singer and back up.

Russ also sang one of my most favorite songs the lovely Victor Herbert/Al Dubin's "Indian Summer" that I used to hear back in the '50s.

Russ Lorenson has a terrific back up four piece combo with Tony Malfatti doing a vibrant sax solo on several numbers. Kelly Park, who did all the arrangements, did lovely piano solo introductions to "Who Can I Turn To" and Victor Young/Ned Washington's "My Foolish Heart".

Russ told a fascinating story about Tony Bennett. The musical Kismet (which had its premiere here in San Francisco) was set to open in New York, however a major newspaper strike was going on during the opening. The producers were afraid of a poor opening with no newspaper advertising available. The producers of Kismet had Tony record "Strangers In Paradise" weeks before the opening. The song rose immediately to No. 2 on the charts and this helped Kismet to open with large box office advance.

Russ is taking this show to Sterling's Upstairs in Los Angeles, August 11-12 & 18-19. He will appear at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek on October 6-8 and then go to New York where he will be at both The Hideaway Room at Helen's (October 13, 14 & 21) and the great jazz club Iridium on October 20. - Richard Connema, TalkinBroadway.com


""Lorenson Channels the Incomparable Tony Bennett""


Who doesn’t love Tony Bennett? Well, I do and so does singing recording artist Russ Lorenson, who brings the music and life of Mr. Bennett to the stage in his one-man show, Bendetto/Blessed: A Tribute to the Life and Music of Tony, starting this month. Lorenson performs the show at Sterling’s Upstairs (4349 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City) for four performances only, August 11-12, and 18-19. With musical direction by renowned jazz artist Kelly Park and written by Lorenson, Benedetto/Blessed premieres July 30th in San Francisco, and from there will play in select cities throughout California and the East coast. The show was created, in part, to honor Mr. Bennett’s 80th birthday, which he will celebrate August 3, 2006. So let’s check in with Russ as I have just checked out his website at www.russlorenson.com and found a strangely unique photo, which piqued my curiosity.

TJ: First of all, I love the picture of you as the ghost on your website.

RL: Thanks! Funny enough, one of the first songs I ever sang around the house was Casper's theme song! My favorite part was the bridge: "He always says hello, and he's really glad to meet ya'! Wherever he may go, he's kind to every living creature." I used to drive my mother crazy with it, so she dressed me up as Casper for my first Halloween as a "biped!”

TJ: Tony is from Astoria? Where did you grow up?

RL: I was born just outside of Philadelphia then moved across the border to Delaware when I was 5 years old. My dad's company transferred him to San Diego when I was 9 years old, and that's pretty much where I grew up and went to high school and college. I moved to San Francisco in 1997 as part of my old high-tech career, to be part of the dot-com boom. It's funny to be doing a show about Tony Bennett, because I really do relate to leaving my heart here in San Francisco. I love living here, and miss it terribly when I'm traveling.

TJ: Were you always a singer?

RL: I've been a singer since even before I can remember. I sang in choirs all throughout my school years, and eventually became a choral conductor and composer. When I discovered musical theatre in junior high school, I thought it was just about the most perfect thing in the world. I was (am?) really nerdy about it, and having just seen the marvelous production of The Drowsy Chaperone, I can really relate to the Man in Chair character. I am a lot like that, driving my friends and family crazy with old cast recordings of musicals. In high school, I went into a period of only listening to "legit" music (madrigals, Gregorian chant, opera, etc.), but eventually came back to my love of theatre music.

TJ: Was music a constant in your life growing up?

RL: I honestly don't remember a time in my life when I didn't have music in it - even if I wasn't performing, I was listening and appreciating.

TJ: Was your family musical?

RL: Not one bit! None of them, not a single one! The only song I've ever really heard my mother sing is "You Are My Sunshine." She used to sing it to me as a kid, and I overheard her sing it several years ago to my little niece when she didn't know I was listening. My parents were definitely music lovers, though. We listened to everything from Johnny Cash to the Moody Blues to Phoebe Snow. My dad was a huge Frank Sinatra fan - but was also into Manfred Mann's Earth Band. My mom is a huge Johnny Mathis fan - but also is crazy about Garth Brooks. I was exposed to their very eclectic tastes, which I think has served me well.

TJ: So you are a big Tony Bennett fan?

RL: You know, I have to admit that as a kid, I was not. In junior high, I would really only listen to musical theatre. As I got into high school, it was all about choral music of the Renaissance. And I was heavily influenced by female jazz singers like Jeri Southern, Blossom Dearie, Ella Fitzgerald, Chris Connor, and even Doris Day. The only male singer I ever listened to heavily during my formative years was Barry Manilow! But as my appreciation of the Great American Songbook has deepened over the last 5-10 years, I have come to adore the classic male singers as well - Mel Tormé, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Chet Baker, Johnny Hartman -and of course, Tony Bennett. The Great American Songbook has had no greater champion than Mr. Bennett. And I am now officially a Tony Bennett fanatic!

TJ: Where did the title Benedetto/Blessed come from?

RL: Mr. Bennett's birth name is Anthony Dominick Benedetto (he was christened Tony Bennett by none other than Bob Hope!). While I was doing my research for the show, I saw an interview with Mr. Bennett where he talked about his birth name, and that in Italian, it translates to "blessed one". He said that at this stage of his life and career, he truly knows what it means to be blessed. And as I heard him say that, I thought to myself, "No, Mr. Bennett - it is we your fans who have been blessed!" But I guess he and I are both right - he has been blessed with a remarkable talent and artistic vision, and we have been blessed by him sharing it with us for over 50 years. And the name for the show just bubbled out of that naturally.

TJ: What can audiences expect from the show? Is it all music or is a retrospective of his career?

RL: As I originally conceived the show, it was to be a mix of music and narrative about Mr. Bennett's life. You know, the typical "cabaret" show where you impart all sorts of facts and clever anecdotes about your subject to the audience in between the songs. But in his autobiography, "The Good Life," Mr. Bennett talks at length about his artistic philosophy, which he says was first imparted to him by an early voice coach (and later echoed by such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bill Evans, Count Basie and others): "Never compromise - only perform the very best music." And I realized that THAT was the story of Mr. Bennett's life. So I stripped out nearly all of the so-called "patter", and I tell the audience up front that I'll be telling Mr. Bennett's story through his music. I also tell them that if they want to delve more into the historical facts (and they should!), we offer his autobiography for sale - at cost - after the show. So the show really is about the music.

TJ: What type of research did you do for this show?

RL: In keeping with what I was just saying, I listened to the music. I have nearly 2000 different performances of Mr. Bennett's on my iPod, and have listened to all of them. I read and re-read his autobiography and every article or interview I could get my hands on. I bought every video and DVD I could find to watch him in performance. I trolled eBay, looking for historical memorabilia that I could glean information from. I've even spoken with a few people who know him personally. But I've spent most of my time immersed in his music, listening to the various interpretations. One thing that is so marvelous about his artistry is that he keeps singing many of the same songs, even after 50 years. But he allows them to change and grow with him. For example, if you listen to the first 1951 recording of "Because of You," it is a very different interpretation than that on his 1962 Carnegie Hall concert recording. And it's completely different from the later recordings he's done of the same song. But they're all equally wonderful in their own right. And it's not that he "takes it easy" on the later recordings - his later adaptations are even more challenging vocally than the early ones!

TJ: Have you tested the waters with the material yet and how was the audience reaction?

RL: Yes, we have. I did a CD Release concert for my first CD a few months ago here in San Francisco at The Empire Plush Room. We tried out four songs from the show, including what we call the "Early Hits Medley," which is made up of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Rags to Riches," "Stranger in Paradise," and "Because of You". The audience went crazy for it! We've tried to be very true to recorded arrangements that Mr. Bennett used. I put my own stamp on the interpretation of course, but I asked my musical director to keep within the framework of the original recordings. As I said before, Mr. Bennett has recorded many songs multiple times, so we chose the arrangements that we liked the best, that fit our band and my personal style the best. So, for example, when we tried out "Fly Me To The Moon", we did the beautiful ballad arrangement that Mr. Bennett first recorded in 1965. People are so surprised when they hear it, especially with the opening verse, because they're just so used to all the other up-tempo versions. We've snuck that song into a few other concerts we've given, and the reaction is always the same. The other song that people have gone crazy for is "Because of You" - this is the song that so many people had sung at their weddings in the 1950's, and they are so nostalgic for it. It's very gratifying to know that I can take them back to a place and time in their life that is so special.

TJ: Have you heard from Mr. Bennett and will he be coming to see your show?

RL: No, I've not had any direct contact with Mr. Bennett. I have people on my creative team who know him, and they tell me that they will have him come to see the show. But I keep telling them that if he does come, please don't tell me beforehand! I'm not sure I'd have the chutzpah to go out and perform his music in front of him, if I knew he was in the audience! Besides which, he's very busy with his own tour and celebrating his 80th birthday next month, so I'm sure he's too busy to come see me. But maybe, someday...

TJ: So do you consider yourself a crooner?

RL: That word has such a negative connotation for some people, as though it somehow diminishes the artistic value of the performance. But yes, I'd have to say that I am a crooner to a certain extent, or that at the very least, I croon when it's appropriate to the performance. For example, I just did the show 1776 with a theatre company here in the San Francisco Bay Area; I certainly didn't croon in that, but I most certainly do within the context of Mr. Bennett's music.

TJ: Any possibility of releasing an album of the music you will be performing?

RL: I've been asked that several times since we started doing this material, and I certainly hope to record it. But, artistically, I want to live with this material as a performer for a while before I commit it to the permanence of a recording. For some of Mr. Bennett's fans, his music is sacred, and I feel a great responsibility to make it the best I possibly can. I'm guessing that it will be at least a year before we head into the studio with this material.

TJ: In order for our readers to find out more about you, I do a little questionnaire called MY FAVORITE THINGS. So here goes? What’s your favorite past time activity?

RL: Well, besides music, I collect antique glass. I have quite a large collection (probably one of the largest in the world) of glassware that was made by an American company called Tiffin Glass.

TJ: Ok, now your favorite state…

RL: You know, I think it would have to be California. I've lived in both Northern and Southern California, and just the varied landscapes (geographical and political!) within the state make it so beautiful.

TJ: I love California too! Next up, favorite song….

RL: I know this sounds like a cliché, but there is no way I could pick just one. Whatever song I'm singing at the moment is my favorite at that time. So much depends on what mood I'm in, who's singing it, what life significance it has for me...nope, no way I could name just one. It's like asking which of your children you love the best!

TJ: Fair enough. How about your favorite dish?

RL: Now this is easy - anything my mom cooks! She's the best cook in the world, and anything she makes is wonderful. But I'd have to say my "holy of holies" from her kitchen is her Fried Green Tomatoes! YUMMMMMM!

TJ: I have never met anyone who has actually had fried green tomatoes…cool! Easy one now, your favorite actor?

RL: This is a toughie, because I tend to love specific performances more than specific actors. But if I had to choose one, I'd say Brian Stokes Mitchell. I've never seen a performance of his that I didn't walk away from shaken to the core as an artist.

TJ: One of my favorites, too! Thanks so much, Russ.

The good news is you can and should catch Russ Lorenson as he honors the legendary Tony Bennett in his new show, Benedetto/Blessed: A Tribute to the Life and Music of Tony Bennett, at any of the following venues:

· July 30, Kelly’s of Alameda, Alameda, CA

· August 5, The Rainbow Room at The Depot Restaurant, Napa, CA

· August 8-9, The Empire Plush Room, San Francisco, CA

· August 11-12 & 18-19, Sterling’s Upstairs, Los Angeles, CA

· October 6-8, Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA

· October 13-14 & 21, The Hideaway Room at Helen’s, New York, NY

For more information on his shows, check out his website at www.russlorenson.com as he makes his way from the West Coast to the Great White Way. So as I leave my heart in San Francisco, actually it is physically on the East Coast, ciao for now! - TJ Fitzgerald, BroadwayWorld.com


"Jazz Review - CD Review of "A Little Travelin' Music""

There is nothing wrong with a little bit of Tony Bennett. Vocalist Russ Lorenson is proof that a little bit of Bennett can really do a lot.
The combination of "Come Fly With Me and Let’s Get Away From It All" is irresistible. Lorenson is not just a crooner covering the traditional Sinatra style or trying to be the next Connick, he is his own man.
Lorenson’s baritone is almost like an instrument. Its richness combined with his vocal phrasing is impeccable. What really works is his ability to take two songs and make them into one. "A Foggy Day (In London Town)" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" is a prime example. Lorenson paces and phrases this beautifully.
What could be the best track on the album is a song from the 1982 broadway play Victor/Victoria titled "Gay Paree." The Mancini composed with Leslie Bricusee added lyrics, Russ Lorenson has a sure fire winner here.
Finally we have "Christmas in San Francisco." Do not imagine Sinatra singing this. Do not imagine Connick singing this. Russ Lorenson closes out his A Little Travellin’ Music album with this one that can be played year round.
Russ Lorenson has a little travelin’ music. Actually he has some stay at home music. This album is a great album to put on when you feel like a little Sinatra or Connick in the afternoon, a little bit of travelin’ music, yes, but you may want to stay home and just listen.
Tracks: Come Fly With Me/Let's Get Away from It All, A Foggy Day (In London Town)/A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, When in Rome, The Air-Minded Executive, Rhode Island Is Famous for You, Moonlight in Vermont, Why Do The Wong People Travel? (duet with Shawn Ryan), Home To Stay, I Love Paris, Gay Paree, Katie Went to Haiti, (On A) Slow Boat to China (duet with Klea Blackhurst), Christmas in San Francisco

CD Title: A Little Travelin' Music

Year: 2006

Record Label: LML Music

Style: Jazz Vocals

Musicians: Russ Lorenson (vocals), Kelly Park (piano), Reid Whatley (bass), Jack Dorsey (drums), Tony Malfatti (sax, clarinet), Igor Abuladze (acoustic guitar), Jeff McNish (electric guitar), Shawn Ryan (guest vocal), Klea Blackhurst (guest vocal)

Record Label Website: http://www.lmlmusic.com

Artist's Website: http://www.russlorenson.com

Reviewed by: Brenton Plourde
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Copyright© 2007 JazzReview.com®. All Rights Reserved.
- Brenton Plourde, Jazz Review


"Toasting Tony"

Most folks remember Austin Cabaret Theatre's 2006 gala for the electrifying presence of Eartha Kitt, but the event was auspicious for another reason. In the opening slot, singer Russ Lorenson was premiering a new act that paid tribute to one of pop music's most beloved singers: Astoria, Queens, native Anthony Benedetto – aka Tony Bennett. The audience adored it – "It went over like gangbusters," he says. "My band and I were overwhelmed" – and ever since, Lorenson has been taking Benedetto/Blessed: A Tribute to the Life and Music of Tony Bennett all over the country. This week, he brings it back to the place where it all began, this time as Austin Cabaret Theatre's headliner. On a break from rehearsing a production of Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree with Lee Meriwether – like Kitt, curiously, a former Catwoman from the Sixties TV series Batman – Lorenson spoke about Benedetto/Blessed and its much-admired subject.

Austin Chronicle: In your mind, what makes Tony Bennett exceptional as a singer?

Russ Lorenson: What speaks to me is not so much his tone quality – which is superb and not just for a man who's 81; he sounds great by any standard – it's his attention to a lyric, his connection with what he's singing about, that comes across in his delivery. Frank Sinatra has been quoted many times as saying that "Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business," but most people forget the rest of what Sinatra said: "He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind and probably a little more." That's the genius of Tony Bennett!

Another thing that makes him stand out for me is that he keeps singing many of the same songs, even after 50 years, but he allows them to change and grow with him. The 1950 recording of "Because of You" is a very different interpretation than that on his 1962 Carnegie Hall concert recording. And it's completely different from his later recordings of the song, including the one he did with k.d. lang on his 2006 Duets album. But they're all equally wonderful. And it's not that he "takes it easy" on the later recordings – his later adaptations are often more challenging vocally than the early ones!

AC: You've said that you're not trying to imitate Tony Bennett. What are you doing?

RL: The show is my love letter to Mr. Bennett, plain and simple, very much like his own tribute albums to musicians he's admired. I feel as though I know him intimately and that when I do the show, I am sitting down to tell the story of my dear friend's life. He's an incredible humanitarian, a civil rights activist who always stands up for what's right, regardless of the cost. I tell a story in the show about an experience he had in World War II, where he got demoted just for being friends with a black man. It may sound strange, but I feel so proud when I talk about him, and I truly am honored that I get to sing his material. Audiences love Tony Bennett the man, and I get to bask in a little of that when I do the show. I know that most people do not come to the show because they're fans of mine – they're fans of his. So I take it very seriously, knowing that I am an unofficial ambassador for him and his career.

AC: Any anecdotes from that first performance of the show in Austin?

RL: Something happened at that first show, and it's repeated itself every single time we've done the show. After the performance, an elderly couple approached me, and they had tears in their eyes. The lady took my hand and told me that "Because of You" was their "first dance" song at their wedding in 1952 – and that they had just celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. She said that when they heard me sing the song, they were transported back to that very special day and wanted to thank me. Similar things have happened everywhere we've done the show – people have very strong personal connections to Mr. Bennett and his music, and they love to tell their stories. That's what I meant about basking in his glow. It's truly an honor.

AC: Any wisdom you've gleaned from Mr. Bennett that you're applying to your own career?

RL: Never compromise – only perform the very best music. And who can go wrong by following Mr. Bennett's lead? - Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle


""'Just in Time'...Along Comes Russ Lorenson with a fabulous love letter and tribute to the great Tony Bennett""

The show is called "Benedetto/Blessed" and I knew the moment I entered the Plush Room with the subdued lighting and the flowers on the piano that Lorenson knows how to set a mood. Many times I have been to the same room with lighting effects that looked more like an operating room.

Lorenson does an early hits medley made famous by Bennett – all have become classics. Here are a few: ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, ‘Stranger in Paradise’, the exceptionally huge hit for Bennett ‘Because of You’, and the wonderful catchy ‘Rags to Riches’ – which happens to be one of my favorites.

During his show, Lorenson gives us some little known facts about Bennett. He doesn’t just talk about them -- Lorenson makes them fun and interesting. All together – the music, the band and Lorenson’s voice make the evening one that is not easy to forget. And, who would want to. The thing about Lorenson’s voice is that it seems to fit into many different song styles. In this show, if you squint your eyes and look at the stage and listen to the music – you will swear that Bennett is right there in that room with you. Yep, Lorenson sings these Bennett hits with heart. You can tell that he really is into the music – his soul won’t let him do anything else. I might even go so far as to say that Lorenson is possessed by Bennett’s hits.

I was transported to Florida when I heard him sing “Fly Me To The Moon” which was first recorded by Bennett in 1965. I was on vacation then – fell in love, and boy does that song bring back memories for me – including when I caught the train back to Chicago with tears running down my cheeks. Awww…young love.

There is so much terrific music in this show that you would like to hear about, but I don’t have space to list them all. All I can say is that there is a bunch of songs that Lorenson brings to us that cover decades, and it’s not just crooning – it’s dreamy.

The gentle sounds of autumn are in the ‘Autumn Medley’ which starts out with ‘Autumn leaves’. I don’t know about you, but I wanted to find a bunch of Autumn Leaves and just lay down in them. As good as this medley is, I would have liked to hear a few strings. Especially with ‘Autumn Leaves’. Tony Bennett has just turned 80, and he is still putting out music. I assume that Mr. Lorenson will probably be doing the same.

THE BAND: KELLY PARK, REID WHATLEY, ERIC THOMPSON, AND TONY MALFATTI GAVE THE EVENING ‘THAT FASCINATIN’ RHYTHM’.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (Highest Rating) - Lee Hartgrave, BeyondChron.org


"Russ Lorenson at the Rrazz Room"

After a rocking beginning with "Raise the Roof" from Andrew Lippa’s off Broadway show The Wild Party, Russ Lorenson, who possesses one of the great male voices in cabaret, begins his new show, Standard Time with a question: "Who says the Great American Songbook" stopped in 1959?" The selections are a treasure trove of obscure beauties and make Lorenson’s show a must see for all singers in search of lost beauties!

All the songs in Standard Time (with the exception of one) have been written in the last twenty years by contemporary songwriters and current cabaret familiars. The roll call includes Michael Feinstein, Ray Jessel & Cynthia Thompson (two songs), John Pizzarelli (two songs) and Jessica Molasky, Maury Yeston, Harry Connick Jr. (two songs) Bob Levy (two songs), Peter Cincotti & Cynthia Cincotti (two songs) & Pia Cincotti, Michael Garin, Tony DeSare, and Ronny Whyte and Francesca Blumenthal.

Lorenson and his brassy band (Kelly Park, piano/musical director, Tom Hubbard, bass, Brian Carmody, drums, and Terrence Brewer on guitar), burst into "Swing Is Back In Style," a 1999 composition of Feinstein, Jessel and Thompson that begins

"I don’t wanna knock the music called rock
But it’s been around for a while.
Life’s like a ring, it’s a circular thing
Now swing is back in style!
The rap songs they do, well I like a few
But most are just juvenile
After winter comes spring, so ring-a-ding-ding
Swing is back in style!"

before erupting in big band merriment. What does he follow that with? Well, the MAC 2006 best original song winner "The Party Upstairs" by Whyte and Blumenthal. Russ, with rhythmic grace, exudes sex appeal as he sings about the pretty upstairs female neighbor whose wild party is disturbing his chandelier and keeping him awake. The hopeful note is the next day he’ll meet her and be invited to the party upstairs!

Lorenson slows down and sensitively sings some sweet ballads, "Are You the One?" (2003) by the Cincottis, and "Ask Me If I Care (2005) by Levy. The second chorus of "Ask Me If I Care" is faster and brassier with a repeated line

"Let the trumpets blare!
Ask me, oh ask me if I care.
Ask me if I care!"

The third ballad is a song he found on an album by gospel singer Chris Rice, "When Did You Fall" (2005). It is a beautiful confession of the secret of love slipping out by the enchanted’s behavior:

"I can tell now by the way you’re looking at me
I better finish this song so my lips will be free."

The fourth ballad is a touching "How I Will Say I Love You" (2005) by DeSare and Mike Lee and then there is an hysterical adult comic song sung with rapid, appropriate gestures, "My Hand"(1998), written by Michael Garin with additional lyrics by Lorenson!

Two clever songs by Connick Jr.: "Forever, For Now" (1990) with lyrics by Ramsey McLean and "I Dream of You Again" (1990) follow, the latter again sung with great feeling and depth. "Fools in Love" (1974), another confessional love song, is the older song by written by Kelly Park when he was 17 to his high school crush, his future wife, and the mother of his children.

Cabaret legend Andrea Marcovicci made a guest appearance, singing in her trademarked style a sincere and moving "Two For the Road" (1967) directly to Russ. They dueted on the second chorus of that great classic Henry Mancini -Leslie Bricusse song. Andrea could not conceal her joy at certain members of the audience stating "How nice to see older folk drinking." Russ countered back by singing to Andrea "Lucky Charm" (2002) by Pizzarelli and Molasky.

"Danglin’" (1978) is a Murray (Nine, Titanic)Yeston original torch sung by Lorenson in the traditional style of great crooners.

One of the highlights of the show is saved for the end. It’s Jessel and Thompson’s "I’m All Right Now" (1992), recorded only by Feinstein and, on a London label, Peggy Lee. Russ sings it softly with strong emotion and the effect is heart-breaking.

His closing is inspired by Ronny Graham’s song from New Faces of 1952 with the same title "It’s Raining Memories" (2008). Quoting some of the original’s lyrics, Lorenson sang it as a straight torch song rather than as the original parody. It’s poignant and demonstrates the full range of Lorenson’s splendid voice.

The band led by Kelly Park was given many opportunities to solo on the breaks and they were brilliant. Lorenson has done some tribute shows in the past but Standard Time"really exposes to us what a glorious instrument his voice is and how he knows when to sing strongly and when to sing gently to place the most appropriate importance on the lyrics. This show is a must see for singers looking for brilliant new material!

Russ Lorenson and Standard Time appears at the Metropolitan Room Saturday, October 25th at 9:45 p.m. and Tuesday, October 28th at 9:30 p.m.

Joe Regan, Jr.
Cabaret Scenes
October 12, 2008
www.cabaretscenes.org - Cabaret Scenes Magazine


Discography

CD - "A Little Travelin' Music" (LML Music), 2006
CD - "What I Want For Christmas" (LML Music), 2006

Photos

Bio

Russ Lorenson has established a reputation as one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading interpreters of jazz standards, with a sound and approach that place him at the intersection of Broadway, jazz, and pop - the very essence of the Great American Songbook. Jazz Review says that “Lorenson is not just a crooner covering the traditional Sinatra style or trying to be the next Connick; he is his own man.”

Nominated for a 2007 MAC Award by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, Russ Lorenson’s passion for the stage started as a youngster, with a performing career that began at age seven in his home town of Philadelphia. As an actor he has appeared in musical productions with theatre companies throughout California and has toured with the National Theatre for Children. As a choral conductor and vocal coach, Russ was the Associate Conductor of the award-winning California Youth Chorale for 5 years. As a vocalist he has toured the US, UK and Europe, appearing in concert with such luminaries as Broadway stars Karen Mason and Dale Kristien, “Queen of Cabaret” Andrea Marcovicci, jazz diva Wesla Whitfield, and as the opening act for the legendary Eartha Kitt.

Lorenson is best known for his critically-acclaimed tribute to an American music icon in his show, "Benedetto/Blessed: Celebrating the Life and Music of Tony Bennett." Lorenson’s salute to the man whom Frank Sinatra called "the best singer in the business" premiered in 2006 as the opening act for the legendary Eartha Kitt. Since then, the show has enjoyed sold-out runs across the country, including San Francisco's Empire Plush Room, Sterling’s Upstairs in Los Angeles, Milwaukee’s Wilson Center for the Arts, and New York's famed Iridium Jazz Club. Lorenson’s previous nightclub show, "A Little Travelin’ Music," played to sold-out audiences on both coasts. His debut CD, of the same name, was released in May 2006 on the LML Music label and features songs from the show and includes duets with special guests Shawn Ryan and Klea Blackhurst. His second CD, the jazzy holiday collection "What I Want For Christmas," was also released on LML Music in 2006, and has received extensive radio airplay in major markets across the US. Both CD’s were included in the initial Nominating Ballot for the 2006 Grammy Awards in the category of "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album" alongside such artists as Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, and John Pizzarelli.