TT 38: Burt Bacharach, Marcy Harriell, Twin Cities events

In the 1960’s, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Dionne Warwick captured lighting in a bottle, crafting some of the most sophisticated pop music of all time, a small canon that defines American Music just as much as Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, or George Gershwin. 

Burt loved Dizzy Gillespie, studied with Darius Milhaud, and apprenticed with Marlene Dietrich. His melodies and harmonies combine high craft with that mysterious alchemy required to make a song a “hit.”

(In Dave Frishberg’s memoir, he describes studying the “Four Bs” while learning his songwriting craft: The Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Brazilians, and Bacharach. Frishberg is an excellent jazz pianist and a fabulous composer of humorous material; his most familiar song in pop culture is “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock.)

It’s time to listen to Burt with fresh ears! We are going to do ten of his masterpieces "straight." I have transcribed the original recordings and reduced all the sweetenings to piano, bass and drums. As I have been preparing for this project I keep admiring Hal David more and more. Hal David was definitely one of the greatest lyricists of all time.

Marcy Harriell is a versatile artist — like so many talented New Yorkers, her résumé makes one ask what she can’t do — but the skill set she brings to Bacharach is that of the grounded musical theatre pro. Who knows where this collaboration may take us? Join us New Years Eve for the first gig….In addition to a 10-song Bacharach set, I’ll be playing some jazz trio with Corcoran Holt and Vinnie Sperrazza.


This next bit goes out to Twin Cities-area readers, i.e. the “hometown crowd.”

Saturday, January 25, I’ll be at the Northrop Auditorium with the Mark Morris Dance Group performing Pepperland, an evening-length response to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m the arranger and composer. It’s hard to explain in a word, but I like the review we got last month in the Washington Post after our performance at the Kennedy Center :

There are great musicians in the pit like Clinton Curtis, Sam Newsome, Jacob Garchik, Rob Schwimmer, Vinnie Sperrazza, Colin Fowler, as well as the extraordinary dancers onstage…

Earlier that same day, my wife Sarah Deming will be appearing at the bookshop Red Balloon. Her new YA novel GRAVITY has been released by Random House and has received rave notices. ("Readers will immediately stand in Gravity's corner as she battles distractions and fights against the odds in pursuit of her dreams. A riveting pugilistic must-read." —Kirkus, starred review.) Sarah doesn’t usually go on tour with me but we thought there might be enough midwest pals to make an in-store appearance in the Twin Cities viable. Big fans of our household can see Sarah at 4 PM at Red Balloon in St. Paul and Pepperland at Northrop in the evening!

The day before, Friday January 24, I am doing a one-time only event at the Lexington in St. Paul. As you may know, master chef Jack Riebel has been battling cancer. Jack’s an old and dear friend, and one of his favorite composers is Burt Bacharach. 

Since Vinnie and I will be in town for Pepperland, we decided to fly Marcy out for a reprise of the Bacharach set at the Lex. I’ll play some jazz trio as well with Vinnie; local hero Erik Fratzke will join us on bass. It’s really a tribute to Chef, who will also be serving his outstanding Lexington food. It’s a ticketed event but the link won’t be live until after the new year. However I wanted to get word out…if you want to be sent another email when the ticket link is available, hit me back.

Happy Holidaze and maybe see you soon!