New American Songbook Project
This group features daring arrangements and re-constructions of jazz, pop, and folk standards made famous by vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Astrud Gilberto, Graham Nash, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Cat Stevens.
1) "It Might As Well Be Spring" [up-tempo swing] 1:43
hear the iconic recording
2) "Satisfaction"[jazz waltz/double-time swing/funk] 2:32
(K. Richards/M. Jagger)
hear the original recording
3) "Witchcraft" [funk ballad] 2:37
(C. Leigh/C. Coleman)
hear the iconic recording
4) "Blue Skies" [funk ballad] 1:27
(K. Goss/B. Murphy/S. Vaughn)
hear the iconic recording
5) "Angel Eyes" ['Coltrane swing'] 3:14
(M. Dennis, E. Brent)
hear the iconic recording
Last week we were treated to a concert from "The New American Songbook Project" by a group of supremely talented musicians. Our audience appreciated the innovative arrangements by keyboardist Michael Smolens and the stellar vocals of Rocio Guitard. We look forward to their next engagement at our concert series.
—Norman Landsberg (Piedmont Piano Concert Series presenter/arranger/recording artist)
The arrangements show an astonishing (and consistently high) level of creativity that flow from Michael, who is also a magician at the piano. I was in awe of the musicianship on display from each member of the group, and of the many ways they weave their contributions together to create a mesmerizing sound.
—Barry Warren (legendary jazz lyricist)
What a great band. Burning solos and killer vocals!
— Mario Guarneri (Jazz In The Neighborhood founder & artistic director)
I hear dozens of jazz groups a year at Hillside,
and the New American Songbook Project
was tremendous fun ! I loved hearing
the band bring Michael's cunning and
sometimes poignant arrangements to life.
In fact, every time he plays at our venue,
he brings in a completely different band !
—Bruce Koball, Berkeley Hillside Club Concert Series
host & musical director
The New American Songbook Project did a terrific job of introducing jazz to the residents of St. Paul's Towers—
a most enjoyable experience.
The band was so in-sync with each other from
beginning to end, lead by the very creative,
multi-talented Michael Smolens.
Jazz vocalist Rocio Guitard's voice wrapped around
those songs ike a smooth velvet glove.
She not only sings beautifully, she makes you believe
she really feels what she is singing !
This quintet is on our calendar for next year,
by popular demand.
— Marilyn Kosinski, Concert & Music Coordinator
St. Paul's Towers, Oakland
Michael's performance here at the Hillside Concerts in Berkeley was extraordinary! All of the players are quite accomplished—the sax player was just amazing. What I found most compelling is how tight the group is, and how well the re-treatment of these old tunes (most of which I knew) turned out to be. I would encourage anyone who is into jazz or pop music from the 60's to hear this group!
—Robert Cowart (host of Hillside Concerts in Berkeley)
"The group’s use of dynamics was very effective,
and this gave space for each soloist
to build their solos slowly,
often starting with just a hint of an idea,
and then gradually building up the drama.
Each musician, whether carrying
the main melody or improvising,
demonstrated a deep understanding
and feel for each song.
And while the blend between
the saxophonist and vocalist
was wonderful, the overall interplay
between the band members
I look forward to hearing more from
this terrific group."
—Dan Willis (pro saxophonist/flutist)
Last night's concert with the New American Songbook Project was truly amazing, and very entertaining...
—Armen Arm (visiting Armenian jazz trumpet player)
The band's rhythm section is wonderfully flexible,
while the sax player [on all 3 saxes] did a fabulous job
of interacting with the vocalist's improvisations.
Michael's arrangements of "For No One" and
"Lady Of The Island" are quintessential,
with their unique harmonies and melodic variations. "Unchain My Heart" is a true show stopper!
—Michael Greenfield (pro bassist)
The band has developed near telepathic communication between players, allowing for unpredictable excursions and vivid storytelling by their vocalist. Each tune drawing its own color as the sax (soprano/alto/tenor), bass (acoustic/fretless & fretted electric), and keyboard (piano/electric piano) are heard in a myriad of different combinations. Rarely do audiences experience the bass, drums, and voice as equally featured soloists. And still rarer to hear a vocalist improvise lyrics on-the-spot, doubling blistering saxophone lines, and singing floating bi-tonal melodies. The band's few original songs appear fully disguised as impostors from another era...
In Michael's own words, "The idea behind this group is to see how far I can take well-known jazz, pop, and traditional folk songs from their original source while keeping them vibrant and emotionally relevant to listeners. It's my only group that doesn't feature my writing exclusively, but each song becomes in a sense a 'song within a song'. By the time they've heard "Girl With The Whole Step" (a complete re-telling of 'Girl From Ipanema' clothed as a study in whole-steps) or Mick Jagger's "Satisfaction" (skating along in three different grooves), they've taken quite a ride. When people hear what we do to songs that they are very familiar with, they are universally excited and really trust us..."
history of performances
Cafe Pink House, Saratoga
Saturday May 13th
Copperfield's Bookstore, Novato
Saturday June 3rd
St. Paul's Towers, Oakland
Piedmont Piano Series, Oakland
House Concert, Second Sight Studio
Saturday September 27th
Stoneridge Creek, Pleasanton
Friday October 4th
The Hillside Club Concert Series, Berkeley
Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland
at Second Sight Music Studio, Berkeley
Cabrillo Elementary School, Fremont
Warm Springs Elementary School, Fremont
Private Event, Fremont
Concerts in the Park
Bread and Roses Benefit
Second Sight Music Studio, Berkeley
Angie Doctor (voice)
Angie is a jazz singer and arranger, vocal coach and clinician for school music ensembles and solo singers, background singer for groups such as The Manhattans, Heatwave, Gene Chandler, Barbara Lewis, Billy Paul, and many others. She is a studio singer and voice-over talent, is the soprano in the jazz vocal quartet Clockwork and most recently, the Girl Bob in the wackiest of all a cappella groups, The Bobs. Additionally, she has been singer and soloist for music projects with Bobby McFerrin, Sufjan Stevens, Sweet Honey in the Rock, John Zorn, Meredith Monk, performing at venues that include Zellerbach in Berkeley, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Philharmonie Berlin. Her vocal work is on many recording projects, including as a featured soloist on the Grammy-nominated recording of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" (Harmonia Mundi), conducted by Kent Nagano. Angie has recorded two albums of a cappella jazz duets with Dan Schumacher of "The Bobs", arranged, recorded and produced by Richard Bob Greene. He Said, She Said, "Duets For Two Voices" and "Two: Vol. 2".
A member of the San Francisco Bay Area vocal music community since 1995, Angie currently teaches a vocal jazz ensemble class for voice majors at the California Jazz Conservatory and a vocal jazz ensemble for community singers at the JazzSchool in Berkeley, California.
Angie is also a founding member of the Grammy-nominated PM Singers and has brought her extensive experience in solo and small group harmony singing to workshops and festivals as a judge and clinician for over 35 years.
Becca Burrington (voice/trombone)
(2003) Becca Burrington graduated in trombone performance with honors from Oberlin Conservatory, where she received the Conservatory Dean's Talent Award. She also studied at Interlochen Arts Center and received the Governor's Scholar and Outstanding Brass Performance award. An active freelancer on trombone and voice, Becca has performed with the Silk Road Project with Yo-Yo Ma, Santa Rosa Symphony, California Chamber Symphony, Women's Philharmonic, Aspen Festival Orchestra, Montclair Women's Big Band, Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, and Erik Jekabson's Vista Nonet. She has also performed and toured with early music groups such as Trinity Wall Street, California Bach Society, Apollo's Fire and the Dark Horse Consort.
She is a founding member of Solstice, an award winning female vocal septet. She has sung with an a wide array of artists including Bobby McFerrin, Sufjan Stevens, Meredith Monk, Andy Williams, and John Zorn. Becca has been featured on numerous recordings including the Bernstein Mass (with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester), four CDs by Solstice, the Montclair Women's Big Band, and the San Francisco Sinfonietta.
Becca teaches students starting at age 10 and also teaches adults. She focuses on establishing good playing habits with a focus on sound and technique while tailoring each lesson to the strengths and interests of the individual student.
Becca's students have played in the Oakland Youth Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Young People's Symphony Orchestra, Berkeley Youth Orchestra, have attended major conservatories, and have gone on to play in professional orchestras and ensembles.
Michael Smolens (piano/keyboard/arrangements)
Michael Smolens has been accompanying and arranging for many leading Bay Area vocalists, including: Raz Kennedy, David Worm, Bryan Dyer, Ernie Shelton, Rhiannon, Shea Breaux-Wells, Katy Stephan, Biaja Solomon, Karen Blixt, along with Pragmavision recording and touring icon, Claudia Schmidt. His original works have been recorded by Stefon Harris (vibes), Paul McCandless & Gene Burkert (reeds/flutes), Zakir Hussain (tabla), and has been commissioned by Meet The Composer, Bernard Osher Foundation, the Occidental Choir, Unity Church, and numerous artists in the Bay Area and New York.
He leads a wide variety of jazz, classical, and international ensembles including:
The BABKAS Duo, trios (Bal du Kor, BRISAS do BRASIL, NUVO Chamber Trio), quintets (earPlay Jazzquintet, New American Songbook Project), and large ensembles (KRIYA Octet, 10-person vocal MIRABAI ENSEMBLE).
Sheldon Brown (tenor, alto, soprano sax)
Composer and woodwind artist Sheldon Brown has been active on the Bay Area music scene for over 30 years, leading his own groups and playing in some of the most interesting and creative ensembles in the Bay Area and beyond. In 2013 he received grants from Chamber Music America and San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (now InterMusic SF) to compose Blood of the Air, an extended composition based on the speech melodies and poetry of Beat-era Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia. Blood of the Air premiered at the 32nd Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival in June of 2014, and the studio recording of the work was released in October of 2018 on Edgetone Records. Brown toured internationally as a featured soloist with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa for 5 years and appears on many of Sosa's CD's. Brown is a member of Club Foot Orchestra since 1990, and contributed compositions to Club Foot's scores for the animated series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, which aired on CBS, and Club Foot's scores to Pandora's Box, which was performed at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre, and Club Foot's scores to Metropolis, Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. and The Hands of Orlac.
Brown has been a key member of Clarinet Thing (led by Beth Custer), since 1991, and has contributed many original works and arrangements of pieces by Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Jimmy Giuffre and many more to the band's repertoire. Brown also writes for and performs with Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, Ian Carey Quintet + 1, Darren Johnston Sextet Matt Small's Crushing Spiral Ensemble and many other original music groups.
Fred Randolph (acoustic/fretless & fretted electric basses)
Fred Randolph is one of the busiest bassists and teachers on the Bay Area scene with a versatile skill set that has brought him work with leading vocalists such as Claudia Villela, Kim Nalley, Melanie O'Reilly, Deborah Winters, Stephanie Bruce, Tony Lindsay, Kenny Washington, Nicholas Bearde, Scotty Wright, and countless others. As a leader he has released two CDs—"Learning Curve" and "New Day"—and performs frequently with his own group, "The Fred Randolph Quintet." Fred also is an integral part of Michael's KRIYA and earPlay ensembles.
Brian Andres (drum set)
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio into a family of professional musicians, Brian came to the San Francisco Bay Area in early 1999. He quickly began working with numerous local Salsa, Afro-Cuban, Latin funk, Latin jazz, and Tex-Mex groups. In 2000, Brian was asked to join the band of San Francisco Bay Area Icon, Dr Loco (Dr Jose Cuellar). Brian continues to perform with him in both The Rockin' Jalapeno Band and Los Tiburones Del Norte. Through working with Dr. Loco, Brian was asked to record the original music soundtrack for the critically acclaimed Robert M. Young film, Alambrista: Directors Cut, along with Grammy nominated producer and musician, Greg Landau. Brian also performed with "The Father of Chicano Music" and National Medal of Arts recipient, Lalo Guerrero, prior to his passing.
Brian has performed with notable San Francisco musicians such as multi instrumentalist John Calloway (John Santos, Wayne Wallace, Omar Sosa) guitarist Ray Obiedo, Grammy Award Winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra, Independent Music Award winning artist and Ivory Coast native Fely Tchaco, reggae singer Black Nature (Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars) percussionist band leader Danilo Paiz (Ruben Blades) He has also performed with East Coast Bachata artists Bautista and Frankely on their West Coast performances. In the 2015 Downbeat Magazine 80th Annual Reader's Poll, Brian was voted into the top 20 in the Drummers category.
In addition to his performance schedule, Brian maintains a private practice in drum set and percussion instruction.