Joan Streit

Live music makes all the difference.

Whatever special event you are planning — a wedding reception, birthday or anniversary party — my piano playing and singing will make the occasion even more unforgettable.

After Hours

May 26, 2012

Celebrating the Life of Donald Smith

It was May 22, 2012, at Town Hall in New York City. The event was a memorial concert remembering and honoring Donald Smith.

If you’ve been to the Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention, you have Donald Smith to thank. He founded the organization decades ago. Every year he gathered dozens of talented singers to entertain us. He also discovered, and nurtered the careers of, many notable singers, including Michael Feinstein and Andrea Marcovicci.

In addition, Donald was responsible for reopening the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel in 1980 (which has, sadly and ironically, just closed). In 1976, he helped preserve Town Hall by having it declared an historic landmark.

The memorial concert was memorable and inspiring. In addition to the aforementioned Feinstein and Marcovicci, the roster of signers also included Ann Hampton Callaway, Barbara Carroll, Marilyn Maye, Steve Ross, Billy Streitch, KT Sullivan, and Ronny Whyte. They, and many others, shared intimate stores and memories of Donald Smith.

This was truly a night to remember!

Filed under: After Hours — Tags: , , — Joan Streit @ 3:32 am

March 21, 2011

Two lyricists I love

Alan & Marilyn Bergman SongbookIs “The Way We Were” a favorite song of yours?  How about “It Might Be You“, the theme from the movie “Tootsie”?  Did you like the songs Barbra Streisand sang in “Yentl“? Do you remember the theme songs to the TV shows “Maude” and “Good Times“?

What all these songs have in common is that their lyrics were written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.  It’s unusual for a husband and wife to work together so successfully.  What’s even more unusual is that they’ve been doing it for over 50 years!!

Alan and Marilyn have worked with some of the finest songwriters around, including Michel Legrand, Marvin Hamlisch, Cy Coleman, Henry Mancini, and Quincy Jones. Their songs have been nominated for 16 Academy Awards, and they’ve won three. Some of my favorites are not as well known, but I think the lyrics are brilliant:  “On My Way to You“, “You Must Believe in Spring“, “Summer Me Winter Me.

As a New Jersey pianist and singer, I know that the songs I choose to sing have to move me and  speak to me on an emotional level.  So many of the Bergmans’ lyrics do just that.  They’re clever, witty, and sophisticated, and they often remind me of the lyrics of Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter.

I hope you’ll be inspired to listen to the lyrics I have linked to.  Please let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

March 27, 2010

Ronny Whyte


Have you heard Ronny Whyte? Have you ever been to Shanghai Jazz Restaurant in Madison, New Jersey? Do you know about the New Jersey Jazz Society? These three wonderful treasures recently came together for a truly memorable and enjoyable afternoon.

Every month, the NJ Jazz Society holds a Sunday afternoon “social” at Shanghai Jazz, a fine Chinese restaurant which also hosts great jazz musicians. Last week the organization invited Ronny Whyte, who has, for decades, been a well-known and respected jazz pianist, singer, composer, and lyricist. (How one person can have so much diverse talent is beyond me!)

In addition to hearing his fabulous music, we also learned some interesting things about him. For example, Ronny performed in “Our Sinatra.” He was good friends with Bobby Short and Mabel Mercer.

He wrote the lyrics for a song recorded by Tony Bennett, “Forget the Woman”  as well as a companion song to “As Time Goes By” made famous in the movie Casablanca. It’s called “Here’s Lookin’ at You.”  To show his versatility, he also wrote a satirical song called “Hampton Blues.” You can hear a sample of these songs here.

If you’re a jazz lover, you should check out Ronny Whyte’s CD’s or see him perform. For more information, see his website. And if you live in the area, consider joining the New Jersey Jazz Society.

Filed under: After Hours — Joan Streit @ 11:02 pm

December 24, 2009

Nancy LaMott

Come Rain or Come Shine -- The Songs of Johnny Mercer

Come Rain or Come Shine -- The Songs of Johnny Mercer

If you’ve followed vocalists over the years, you may have heard of Nancy LaMott. And if you listen to Jonathan Schwartz’s weekend radio program on WNYC in New York or on Sirius XM radio, you know that the very last song of each program is sung by Nancy.

Listening to her is always an emotional experience for me. Even though I’ve heard a song interpreted by numerous vocalists, it’s always Nancy’s version that I find the definitive one. When Nancy sings the lyrics, it’s as if I’m really hearing them for the first time. She gave everything she had to a song, both musically and emotionally; she held nothing back.

Another reason to feel emotional about Nancy is that she died at age 43, in 1995, when she was just starting to “make it.” Her last CD was recorded live at Tavern on the Green in New York City, just three weeks before her death.

Choosing my favorite Nancy LaMott songs is a daunting task, but here are a few: “Skylark” from “Beautiful Baby,” her first CD; “My Foolish Heart” from the CD of the same name; “Listen to My Heart” and “Ordinary Miracles” from “Listen to My Heart.”

“Come Rain or Come Shine: Songs of Johnny Mercer” is a particularly notable CD. It’s very timely now because all year we’ve been celebrating the centennial of Mercer’s birth. And the combination of incredible vocals and instrumentals makes this CD especially worthwhile. Listen to “Talk to Me Baby” and “When October Goes”, and you hear vocal/instrumental duets!

I must mention two very important men in Nancy’s musical life. Christopher Marlowe was Nancy’s piano accompanist and arranger. What a perfect duo they made! And David Friedman was crucial on so many levels to Nancy’s career. First of all, he produced all of her CDs; it was David who originally convinced Nancy to record her music. In addition, many of her most famous songs were written by David: “Listen to My Heart”, “We Live on Borrowed Time”, and “I’ll Be Here with You.” Finally, in 2007 David produced a two-disc CD, “Ask Me Again,” which is a compilation of her memorable songs. Many of the songs on this CD were recorded in Atlantic City, New Jersey. David has truly kept Nancy’s music alive.

If you know Nancy and her music, you’ll understand my passion for her. And if you haven’t yet heard her, I hope this will tempt you. To hear some of Nancy’s songs, go to my YouTube channel, and click on the samples.


Filed under: After Hours — Tags: , , — Joan Streit @ 8:59 am

November 16, 2009

Meeting Michael

Michael-FeinsteinAccording to today’s New York Times, Michael Feinstein has just been appointed the director of a new popular music series at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He will be creating programs that focus on “the relationship between jazz and songwriting.” How wonderful! The article mentions George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter as “an integral part of the jazz world.” Right on!

Michael Feinstein is the musician who has most influenced my career. I still remember the night I first saw him; it was at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, New York City, over 20 years ago. That night I had no idea just how much of an impact he would have on me.

I was totally mesmerized, listening to him play the piano, sing glorious songs, and interject humorous anecdotes.This was what I wanted to do!  His mission, to keep alive the music of the Great American Songbook, has become my mission as well. Michael sang great Gershwin standards, including my favorite, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” He also performed a song that has become part of my repertoire: Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano.”

At age 20, Michael was introduced to Ira Gershwin, who hired him to catalogue George and Ira’s extensive musical archives, stored at Ira’s home in Beverly Hills. This led to a close friendship with Rosemary Clooney, Ira’s next-door-neighbor. Liza Minnelli, who also became a good friend, introduced Michael to the L.A. cabaret world. The rest, they say, is history.

If you’ve followed Michael’s incredible career, you may have seen him in person, perhaps at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, or at  his very own cabaret spot, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in New York City. If so, you know what a dynamic performer he is.

If you’d like to learn more about his life, I highly recommend Michael’s autobiography, “Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme,” published in 1995.

Filed under: After Hours — Tags: , , — Joan Streit @ 9:00 am

November 4, 2009

An Evening with KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler

KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler

KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler

Last month I went with my husband and our friend Marcia, a fellow cabaret enthusiast, to the South Orange Performing Arts Center, SOPAC.  It’s a wonderful theater with just 400 seats, just right for cabaret.

We went to see Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan, and what a performance the two put on! Mark Nadler has a range that goes from romance to comedy to manic energy. He’s known as “the crazy man on the piano.” KT has a voice that is, forgive the cliché, clear as a bell. Among other places, they have both performed at Carnegie Hall, New York City’s Town Hall, and Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

On October 3rd they had traveled all day to arrive in South Orange, and Mark said that he needed the energy of the audience that night to support them. At one point he performed an original pairing of Cole Porter songs “You’ve Got That Thing” and “They Couldn’t Compare to You.” He sang with finesse, and occasionally such gusto and at top speed, without a flaw, that my husband gave him a standing ovation.

Their act was somewhat unplanned. They thought they were doing a Gershwin review, while the program was billed as “Cole Porter and Friends.” Mark quipped that the show was going to be more like “Friends and Cole Porter.” Who cares? (Forgive the Gershwin reference!) They’re troupers, they have worked together so many times, and they improvised a bit. Performing songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart and Irving Berlin, Mark and KT were wonderful together and separately.

SOPAC has a variety of performances including serious theater, comedy, and music of all kinds. If you’re not familiar with the performance space, check out the schedule.

Filed under: After Hours — Tags: , , , — Joan Streit @ 7:00 am