great American songbook

Swinging into Nehalem

Jazz singer Rebecca Kilgore & Her Band bring the Great American Songbook -- and a few holiday tunes -- to the Oregon Coast

She’s been inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, the Jazz Society of Oregon’s Hall of Fame, and honored as a Jazz Legend at the San Diego Jazz Party. She’s played famed American jazz venues from New York to L.A., as well as performing in Holland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Norway – not to mention on jazz cruises around the world.

And now, Rebecca Kilgore is coming to the Oregon Coast. On Saturday, Rebecca Kilgore & Her Band will take the stage at the NCRD Performing Arts Center in Nehalem to present a night of the music that’s earned Kilgore countless accolades, including “one of America’s leading song stylists … of the Great American Songbook.” Her discography numbers more than 50 recordings, her repertoire more than 1,000 songs.

Portland singer Rebecca Kilgore says she loves small venues for the intimacy they create with the audience.

In a phone interview days before her performance, Kilgore and I talked about music, performing and the highlights of her career. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nehalem — I’m guessing this is a relatively small venue for you?

Rebecca Kilgore: Yes, and I love small venues. It’s intimate and you can really create a relationship with the audience. I am not one of those singers that emotes a lot. I really like to just have fun with the music because I love it so and I want to impart that to my audience.

What can audience members who haven’t seen you perform expect?

RK: If they’ve heard of Ella Fitzgerald or Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, or any of the singers of the classic Great American Songbook, that is kind of my wheelhouse. I learned from them. Those are the people I was inspired by. I do a lot of jazz standards. I also tend to sing less-well-known things. That’s good in some ways and bad in some ways. If people are unfamiliar with the genre, they will be really unfamiliar with what I sing. I won’t do a lot, but I will throw in a few holiday songs.

You’ve also done shows performing songs from Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland.

RK: Yes, but I don’t imitate them and I don’t dress up like them. I pick things from their repertoire and borrow their arrangements.

Does the size of the audience affect your performance?

RK: I’m planning my program this week. Sometimes when you are in a venue like that, you can tell what people are responding to. If they like a particular type of song, I may change things on the spot.

Continues…

A cozy chat with Hershey Felder

The "Irving Berlin" creator and star talks about life, politics, the return of "Willesden Lane," and his New Year's Eve singalong at the Armory

By ALICE HARDESTY

If you’re feeling the holiday blues or post-election anxiety, or you’re depressed by a seemingly irreparable schism in the American population, you should come to Portland Center Stage to see and hear Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin. Come before the show closes on Friday. Or even if you’ve seen it already, come to the big Great American Songbook Singalong on New Year’s Eve. You will, once again, feel the warmth of community. You’ll see the son of Jewish immigrants call up the life of an iconic Jewish immigrant in song, piano music, and storytelling. At times you can sing along, softly or lustily, as have many audiences before you. And you may shed a few tears. But for sure, you’ll leave with a smile and a warm heart.

Hershey Felder in the world premiere production of “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” at Geffen Playhouse in 2014. Photo by Eighty Eight Entertainment.

On the recent Winter Solstice I had a warm conversation in a chilly Green Room with Felder, with occasional input from his director, Trevor Hay, and enthusiastic listening from PCS’s Claudie Jean Fisher. We touched on everything from the rigorous schedule of daily performances, to music and humanity, to the current state of nation.

Continues…

Berlin stories: the making of an American legend

Portland Center Stage's "Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin" sings and tells the story of the outsider who became the deeply driven voice of the nation

For all of the great American songwriter Irving Berlin’s genuine patriotism and genius for tapping the vitality of the nation’s popular spirit, he comes across in Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin as something of a dyspeptic old coot.

Then again, when we meet him (in a clever bit of stagecraft, as the invisible inhabitant of a wheelchair that sits stage right on the Mainstage at Portland Center Stage) he’s a disgruntled centenarian, crushed by the recent loss of his wife of more than sixty years, haunted by the feeling that the popular culture he did so much to help create has passed him by, and, mostly, just tired of life.

Fortunately his younger self, in the person of singer, pianist, playwright, and solo performer Felder, is on hand to speak for him, act as an intermediary between the very private Berlin and his adoring audience, and explain the personal and cultural context of the extraordinary book of roughly 1,500 songs for which the man born Israel Isidore Beilin (or Baline) wrote both music and lyrics, altering forever the landscape of American popular music.

Felder at the keyboard as Berlin. Photo: Eighty Eight Entertainment

Felder at the keyboard as Berlin. Photo: Eighty Eight Entertainment

In Friday night’s opening performance at Center Stage, Felder was a brash and pounding presence, attacking Berlin’s songs with dominating passion and the piano keyboard with emphatic fury, as if he were afraid some fugitive modern reinterpretation might escape and misrepresent Berlin’s original intentions. It seemed apt. Felder’s delivery of this bounty of songs was distinguished by a fidelity to the periods in which the music was composed, reaching back in spirit to the straightforwardness of Berlin’s hero Stephen Foster and for the most part (although he began his career writing tunes for the dance crazes that swept the nation in the early years of the 20th century) avoiding the syncopations of the swing and jazz revolutions that came to represent and in many ways reinvigorate the Great American Songbook. If Berlin’s songs were simple compared to Porter’s or Gershwin’s, they also had the power of directness. They were essentially American statements of optimistic populism, with a potent blend of honest sentimentality and the hard nut of basic truths. They were songs you could hum. Songs you did hum.

Continues…