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When you think of soaring romantic strings, cool rhythms and velvet tones from a man on stage in a well cut suit you might be forgiven for thinking of Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, but this time around it’s none other than Australia’s very own Gregg Arthur, interpreting in his own way the classic songs from the legendary Nat ‘King’ Cole songbook.
ABC Music is proud to present Gregg Arthur’s latest album Unforgettable, a collection of songs from Nat ‘King’ Cole’s contribution to the Great American Songbook. This recording, as is the case with all of Gregg’s recordings, evokes an era of elegance and style, a time when the music was performed with phrasing that emphasised the storytelling behind these songs. The Great American Songbook is a collection of music which was written for singers with technique – power doesn’t suit these tunes, they require nuance, which Gregg Arthur delivers in spades.
Gregg is a true Renaissance man. He is an accomplished songwriter, creating both music and lyrics, a landscape and portrait painter, and actor. He grew up both in Sydney and on a cattle property on the McIntyre River, an hour out of Inverell. Isolation on the farm was no problem for the young Gregg. In between working on the farm and painting landscapes, he immersed himself in his father’s extensive record collection, which included all the classic albums of Frank Sinatra, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
Gregg’s singing teacher in Sydney, Don Grayden, always said: ‘I don't teach singing. I teach psychology.’ He helped Gregg understand the importance of breathing techniques and the story behind a lyric. Don also told him, ‘If you want to be a great singer, you have to learn how to act,’ which led to drama school and some roles in TV and film as well as some musicals, but singing the Great American Songbook has always been his first passion.
Gregg soon made his way to the United States and even with his matinee-idol looks and personable manner, he soon discovered that the way into the world’s toughest music scene also required confidence and tenacity.
‘I just started going to gigs featuring great musicians and whenever they’d have a break I’d go up and start talking to them about music. Inevitably it would end up with me getting up onstage and singing with them.’
There are only a handful of singers of Gregg’s ability and style in today’s music scene who are able to perform songs from the Great American Songbook as they were meant to be performed – Tony Bennett, for example, is one of the last of his generation who made this art form great and can still deliver them beautifully to enthusiastic audiences. There are very few who are able to perform this genre in its original context, with rich, lush arrangements and gentle, loving vocalisations feeling every word and emotion of the song, yet in a new and original way.
Honing his craft over the years, Gregg has travelled the world performing for enthusiastic audiences of his own, most recently in Las Vegas, where celebrities and Great American Songbook aficionados have embraced him and his unique interpretation of this beloved musical art form, and he has had the pleasure of working with some of the great players of the genre – Joey Singer (musical director for Debby Reynolds, Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, Dame Shirley Bassey, Michael Feinstein), Vincent Falcone (former musical director for Frank Sinatra), Gus Mancuso (musical director for Sarah Vaughan) and Bob Rosario (bandleader and arranger for Bobby Darin).
His debonair style makes it all look so smooth and easy, but such ‘natural’ ease takes years to perfect.
‘I’m one of those people who believes that you never stop learning,’ he says. ‘And in the end it all comes down to the story of the song. All of these wonderful songs sum up the lives of individuals and you enter into their world, rather than the song just being a jingle.’
Gregg recently performed a series of showcases and promotional appearances in the U.S., including Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the MGM Grand Las Vegas (star of Everybody Loves Raymond & ’Til Death), and will be returning in November 2012 to tour and open for headline artists in Las Vegas and casinos all around the United States.
With his assured command of the genre, listeners to this brand new album Unforgettable will be swept away.
1 CARMICHAEL / PARISH Stardust
2 NOBLE The Very Thought Of You
3 AHLERT / TURK Walkin’ My Baby Back Home
4 BEST For Sentimental Reasons
5 YOUNG / HEYMAN When I Fall In Love|
6 AHBEZ Nature Boy
7 GORDON Unforgettable
8 CHAPLIN / TURNER / PARSONS Smile
9 KAEMPFERT / GABLER L.O.V.E.
10 BURWELL / PARISH Sweet Lorraine
11 EVANS / LIVINGSTON Mona Lisa
12 HOWARD Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
13 TROUP Route 66
14 COLE / MILLS Straighten Up And Fly Right
15 HOPE / ARTHUR More and More