MICHAEL FEINSTEIN BRINGS MASTERFUL INTERPRETATIONS OF TREASURED TUNES TO HIS ONLY GARDEN STATE PERFORMANCE THIS SEASON
BY JON DOMENICK
Crowned “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” pianist and song stylist Michael Feinstein keeps beloved standards alive and current. Over a three decade career, his recordings and TV specials have earned five Grammy nominations. He also hosts a popular NPR series entitled Song Travels, is lauded as a musical educator and archivist, and has appeared at The White House, Buckingham Palace, Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. The PBS series Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, recipient of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Television Broadcast Award, aired for three seasons (and is available on DVD). He also holds no fewer than three honorary doctorates.
Feinstein’s wealth of American musical knowledge will be on display at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 28, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, in the themed concert “Celebrating the Crooners,” one that pays tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Bing Crosby, and other legends. Mixing anecdotes and artistry with nostalgia and humor, he takes audiences on a sentimental journey, but with a thoroughly modern vibe.
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Feinstein started playing piano by ear at age five. He moved to Los Angeles at 20, where the widow of legendary concert pianist/actor Oscar Levant introduced him to Ira Gershwin in 1977. He became Gershwin’s assistant for six years, granting him access to unpublished songs which he has since performed and recorded. Gershwin’s influence provided a foundation for Feinstein to evolve into a performer as well as a composer/arranger of original music, and a noted interpreter of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and Duke Ellington. His book, The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs (Simon & Schuster, 2012), which includes a CD of Gershwin standards, was a Los Angeles Times best seller.
Known to share the stage and hobnob with the likes of Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Neil Sedaka, and Jason Mraz, Feinstein calls the late Rosemary Clooney his “second mom.” In 2007, he founded the Great American Songbook Foundation, dedicated to celebrating and preserving the art of song through educational programs, master classes, and its annual High School Songbook Academy. Most recently, he designed a new piano for Steinway called “ The First Ladies,” inspired by the White House piano and signed by several former First Ladies.