According 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.