Friday, April 24, 2009

Free Association with Wendy Lane & Laurel

We must admit that being performers has made us just the tiniest bit solipsistic, or maybe we became performers because we saw that we were indeed the center of the universe. This being the case, we’re taking our naval gazing public with a new feature where Laurel and Wendy Lane take turns interviewing each other on a wide variety of topics. In honor of her gig this Monday at Birdland Miss. Laurel gets to take the interviewee chair first.

Laurel had the great good fortune to start her career at the top with the Manhattan Transfer. Her seven year tenure with the group took her around the world, into the recording studio on onto the television. The following clip from the Transfer’s TV show inspired today’s round of questions.

WLB: This Clip is from the short lived Manhattan Transfer TV show, what do you remember most about working on the show?
LM: This is a clip from one of the four Manhattan Transfer shows that we did for CBS in 1975. Our show was a summer replacement for The Cher Show. Janis and I shared Cher's dressing room, as I recall, and the makeup man on her show, Brad Wilder, also worked ours. My strongest memories of the show are of working nonstop. This was basically a variety show, but we didn't have musical guests from week to week, which meant that we had songs, dance routines, and skits to learn every week. I remember getting to the makeup chair at 5 AM on taping days so that Barbara Lorenz could start curling my hair. I also recall that there were two teams of writers, some successful old-time TV comedy writers who had done the Dean Martin Show, and our younger, wilder folks who included Bruce Vilanch, I think. I have an image in my mind of us ping-ponging back and forth from one little room to another, doing shuttle diplomacy.

WLB: What specifically about this clip do you recall?
LM: Lush Life is a beautiful and difficult song. The challenge is to make all those impossible intervals seem inevitable and easy, and the sophisticated lyric seem casual, as if one always talks that way. And to keep the fox stole from slipping off my shoulder.

WLB: What goes through your mind when you watch this clip now?
LM: Oh, I wish someone had suggested I be more still until I moved on purpose, but the most pressing thought is that I was a far better singer than I thought I was then.

WLB: Since the time of the Transfer and the TV show how do you feel you have changed as a singer and performer?
LM: How have I changed? I am much more confident. My voice is richer. I know a lot more about music now. And I trust the audience's goodness. I am grateful for the privilege of singing for people, wherever, whenever. But the most important change is that I am 33 years older than I was in 1975, and nothing - nothing! - is better for an artist than the living of life over time.

WLB: If you could have a conversation with the girl in the video clip what would you tell her?
LM: If I could talk to 1975 Laurel, I would tell her that she was good, and she was right (she would know what I was referring to), and that eventually she would have a dog. Eventually she would live in the country for a time as she had always dreamed. I would tell her that happiness is a decision made every day, and that God was and would remain extravagantly in love with her.

WLB: What was the most valuable thing you learned in your time with the Transfer?
LM: I think my time in the Transfer taught me that people have different learning styles. No two of us worked on the music in exactly the same way. And we came from different backgrounds, and had very different tastes. We argued a lot. But we worked so hard on our music, and, in spite of all the differences, we made a sound that was unified and beautiful, and performed shows that made audiences feel good. I am very proud of that. I am also proud of the way we influenced education. There were not very many jazz choral programs when we started - now there are jazz choruses in thousands of colleges and high schools, and a lot of those groups sing Manhattan Transfer arrangements. I am happy to have contributed to the keeping of the flame, happy to be continuing to sing music I love.

WLB: Okay, let’s wrap this up with a plug for your Birdland appearance…
LM: As a solo artist, my musical taste has remained very eclectic. In my upcoming show at Birdland (Monday, April 27 at 7 PM) I will be singing tunes from Broadway shows, from Tin Pan Alley , music by Lester Young, Harry Nilsson, Bach, and yes, something from the Manhattan Transfer songbook. And I am looking forward to every moment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Morning Motivation

It wasn’t the beautiful spring weather, or the weekend overdose of chocolate bunnies I could feel gathering around my waist that got me out of the house this morning. Nope. It was the chance to exercise with RuPaul. Alas, not the real RuPaul, but RuRu’s new album Champion. An atypical recommendation from one of your Redheads? Perhaps. But any album that makes you feel like you’re stalking down a catwalk rather than pounding the pavement in tres unattractive shoes on an endless quest to fit into the series of little black dresses you must wear to upcoming events is worth its weight in mascara.

By the way, two of those little black dress worthy events coming up would be Miss. Laurel’s gig at the Land of the Bird on April 27th, and my warbling in NJ to benefit pediatric neurology on May 7th. For those details look to the right of this column, we’re looking forward to seeing you. In the meantime…anyone for a catwalk?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Mondegreen for the Moment

In these uncertain times it’s good to know that even the land of misheard lyrics feels our pain.Thus this timely interpretation of the Elton John classic Bennie and the Jets

B-B-B-Bennie, Bennie is in Debt

This Tuesday diversion brought to you courtesy of your Redheads and, further proof that maybe the internet really isn’t such a boon to productivity after all…

Friday, April 3, 2009

On the Road To Inspiration

Inspiration can be a slippery companion, there one minute and gone the next, as your Redheads know all too well. In a split second you go from burning with a brilliant idea to being slumped on the floor consuming mass quantities of diet coke and chocolate unable to remember your own name let alone your glorious insight. We have learned through the past few years of working together that our typical work day has to include time to have a good meal, share a laugh and maybe a stroll to see what revelations our favorite retail establishments hold. Our best ideas sometimes come not when we are staring at each other across the desk, but when we are actively engaged in other pursuits. A brisk walk on a gorgeous day, an object of beauty or the smell of new shoes (the more expensive the shoe, the brighter the brainstorm) can spark our creativity and get us back on the right track. Miss Laurel’s inventiveness is frequently spurred by the sound of a piece by Bach, or witnessing an anonymous act of kindness. For Miss. Wendy Lane it can be seeing a great work of art like John Singer Sargent’s Madame X, George Seurat’s “In the Studio” , an Alphonse Mucha print, or a Walker Evans photograph; or hearing a song that feels so much like it was written especially for her that she can’t wait to wrap her vocal chords around it. One of the other places we’ve found ourselves most inspired is the classroom, to see another singer grow and change in front of your very eyes is a great gift from the universe. We are very excited that we will have that pleasure with some frequency this spring and summer as we are preparing workshops currently scheduled for Washington, DC, Wilmington, DE, and Philadelphia, PA with the possibility of adding a few other stops along the way. For details check out the Where in the World are the Redheads Section of the blog. We are looking forward to being inspired by you!