Russ Lorenson heads the Late Night Show at 10:30
with his Special Guest Amanda King
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
AMANDA KING was one of the last performers to appear at San Francisco’s once favorite cabaret, the Plush Room, before the doors closed forever in early 2008. The show was a total success. Amanda then went on to record Chanteuse, a collection of popular songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s now referred to as the American Songbook. This treasured material has Amanda’s name written all over it. Her tone is rich and sexy, her phrasing is smooth, the delivery balances carefree passion with subtle humor. Amanda King is the right girl for the very best in American songwriting. This Saturday night she is the special guest of singer Russ Lorenson at the 10:30 Late Show in the Rrazz Room at San Francisco’s Nikko Hotel. We talked recently about San Francisco’s nightclub scene, her forthcoming New York debut, and how it all works.
Amanda: Russ Lorenson is a friend of mine. I will be doing about five songs. One will definitely be “A Night In Tunisia”. Blues guitarist Terrence Brewer and Kelly Parks will be accompanying, along with Reed Watley on bass, and Adam Goodcue on drums. I called Terrence Brewer up the other day and said I wanted to do this funny arrangement of “A Night In Tunisia”, ‘can you just work with me?’ He said, “Just bring it in your mind and we’ll make it happen.” And definitely ”Through The Courtesy of Love”. I found that one on Turner Classic Movies.
Seán: ”Through The Courtesy of Love” was the theme song for one of Jackie Gleason’s characters – Reginald Van Gleason, The Third.
Amanda: It’s an amazing song and one that I will make my own. Along with “Black Moonlight” and “Porter’s Love Song to a Chambermaid” – which is how I discovered Mildred Bailey! I’m working on a Mildred Bailey show which I’ll be doing later. I’ve known Russ Lorenson since 2003. I was at one of his Christmas parties. Over the years people have been giving him reindeer. So, there’s this reindeer counting contest. You have to go around his house and then figure out how many damn little tchotchke reindeers he’s got. There were over 200!
Seán: It’s an industry that will never die.
CDs – RUSS LORENSON
Amanda: Luckily, Russ got laid off from his job, got a severance and spent all his money on music. That’s how he’s gotten to where he is now, and that’s only been about three and a half years.
Seán: You have to literally and figuratively cast your “bread” out on the waters and see what comes back.
Amanda: Exactly! So, he’s been really wonderful to me. He’s taking over the late night show at the Rrazz Room from Terese Genecco. She just moved to New York and recently won the 2009 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Award for Outstanding Female Vocalist. And her girlfriend, Shaynee Rainbolt, was nominated for Outstanding Jazz Female Vocalist. So, they’re quite the Lesbian power couple now in cabaret.
Seán: How do you settle on your song arrangements? I know you want to have a lot of input on them, but how do you move about from gig to gig unless you have the same person playing for you?
Amanda: Honestly, I go with the flow. My sheet music is just kind of straight ahead. Hopefully, I have the chance to talk with my players, but the lesser known songs I have to rehearse, tell them how it goes, and I give them my CD. But now I’m doing more material. So, I just say ‘OK, just play it, let’s see how it goes and we’ll take it from there’. And I come up with my own stuff if necessary.
Seán: Imagining at tour, let’s say, or at least an out-of-state gig – what would you do to replace the musicians who work with you here? Who would you take with you?
Amanda: Actually, I just solidified my “Metropolitan Room” gig in New York. It’s set for October 10th. I’m hoping to take Shota Osabe, my pianist, and definitely my drummer, Micha Patri. If I can’t take Shota, then I know Micha knows me well enough and he is a wonderful musician. He would be able to tell the other musicians how it’s suppose to go. Micha can play Musical Director, he knows how I like it. He can communicate that better than I can, because I just get flustered and go, “Ooohhh!!!” I’ll be attending the “Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention” which is at the end of Cabaret Week. They do it every year. It’s run by Donald Smith. It came here in 2000. He helped discover Paula West.
Amanda: I’ll be attending the “Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention” which is at the end of Cabaret Week. They do it every year. It’s run by Donald Smith. It came here in 2000. He helped discover Paula West.
Seán: Have you ever been to a celebrity convention?
Amanda: No, this will be the first.
Seán: When I was in college I went to my first Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club Convention. It went on for a week. Fans and celebrities from all over the world attended it, including composer Meredith Willson, singer Kathryn Grayson, and Blossom Rock – Jeanette’s sister – who played “Granny” in the original “The Addams Family” TV series. It was fabulous.
Amanda: What did you do – just go up and say, ‘Hi!”
Seán: Actually I threw myself at them. It starts with being a devoted fan. Once you know you are that, then it’s really easy to start connecting with other devoted fans – around the globe – because you all share one thing, one passion in common. What I learned from that was the power of a devoted fan base. And then they follow you, collect articles and photos on you, hoarde your flyers and posters. Jeanette MacDonald is that beautiful soprano film star who introduced The City’s Anthem, “San Francisco”. Come the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire and the screening of the 1936 film, San Francisco – this year it played the Castro Theatre – I put up an article about Jeanette MacDonald. And I know that her still very active fan base will find it and pass it on, especially when she is spoken of positively, in a constructive manner, and within a historical context.
Amanda: Wow! This gathering uses Mabel Mercer’s name. It’s not like a fan club convention. They will have a bunch of different people performing.
Seán: And then it’s always about the repertoire and whatever is happening next. So, how are you reaching out to people? How is the fan base going?
Amanda: It’s really getting there. I’ve got people that are coming out more and making longer trips. The support is really lovely and I’m very happy about that. And I may be doing the Indianapolis Jazz Festival in September, but nothing is set yet. I really need to take some time and work on my repertoire and the Mildred Bailey show. That is something I’d like to debut before I go to New York. I would like to put it up in September. I’m getting my sheet music from Bob Grimes.
Seán: Let’s segue to Bob Grimes, his sheet music collection and Michael Feinstein.
Amanda: Basically what happened is that Bob Grimes gave my CD to Michael Feinstein. Then I met Michael after his performance at Davies, worked my way backstage, and he says, “You’re on my ipod, you have your own line, I really enjoy your work.” Since then, Michael has written back with song suggestions for the Mildred Bailey show. I’m going to be in Indianapolis at the end of this weekend and Michael is opening what I think will be the headquarters for his foundation in Carmel, which is a suburb of Indianapolis. A very chi-chi suburb.
Seán: CAR-mel? Like the candy and not like our Car-MEL?
Amanda: Yeah, CAR-mel. But you have to get the Indiana twang in there. The Carmel Performing Arts Center is opening there, and Bob Grimes is giving his sheet music collection to Michael Feinstein which will be housed there. It’s really a big deal. Michael is doing a Great American Songbook competition. The finals are this weekend. He’s really trying to get the youngsters interested in this music, which is the only way it will be able to go on. He will be there in town judging.
Seán: I interviewed Ann Hampton Callaway recently in conjunction with her appearance at the Marines Memorial. She also is concentrating on the American Songbook and addressing the issue of how important it is to get it out there to a younger audience. I mentioned your recording, Chanteuse, to her and praised your track of Lazy Afternoon, which she has also recorded, and also your great arrangement of Black Moonlight. So, are you working on another? And what’s coming up in the immediate future?
Amanda: I don’t have plans right now for another recording. I’m at Zingari at the Donatello Hotel every Tuesday from 7:30 to 11:30 through June.
Seán: Will you be breaking in some of the Mildred Bailey material?
Amanda: Oh, absolutely. I like to work with Shota for that gig.
Seán: What do you say to others who dream of doing what you are doing?
Amanda: First, go with what you love. Something that’s stuck in your craw and you feel compelled to do. Regardless of whether or not they fit you – if you love them, they will fit you. If you really need to sing, then you’ve got to start singing. You go out, listen to musicians, find musicians you think you can work with and find the time to work with them. Then do open-mics. I know there’s not that many around anymore, but if nothing else, get a pianist to record some songs for you. If you can’t have the piano player with you, then take the CD to the open-mic.
Seán: How long did it take to record your CD?
Amanda: One day essentially, over a period of two days.
Seán: Thus, the same kind of pressure Keely Smith talked to me about with her one or two takes at Capitol Records. So, you can use the recording as part of your resumé package in addition to having it available for those who want to purchase it after they’ve seen you perform.
Amanda: I’m pretty much a one-take kind of girl. I sing the song. I find that subsequent takes don’t have quite the oomph that the first one does.
Seán: It’s the same thing as a live performance. You step up to the mic and just do it.
Amanda: Exactly. It’s an excitement that’s not there on take three or four. It goes away. I have my musicians for one day and I know they’ve got their stuff together. Then it’s just about me. I had to go back and do a little overdubbing, but that was it.
Seán: What are your favorite encore numbers?
Amanda: I love “One Note Samba” and “What Is This Thing Called Love?”. Leave ‘em with a bang, you know? I’m totally Old School: leave them happy, leave them wanting more. Get them to their feet. And that’s it!
Get your feet on down to the Rrazz Room this Saturday night, June 6th, for: Russ Lorenson with Special Guest Amanda King
Amanda King’s CD, Chanteuse to your Library. Click here to sample and purchase MP3s: Chanteuse
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Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: email@example.com.