Entertainment » Music

Michael Feinstein decks the halls at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency

by Bob Johnson
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

2008 has been an extraordinary year for singer and "Ambassador of the American Songbook" Michael Feinstein. His 24th album, The Sinatra Project, debuted in September and he kicked-off the release with a sold-out engagement at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in Manhattan.

Judge Judith Sheindlin officiated his marriage to long-time partner Terrance Flannery in October. Liza Minnelli, Michele Lee, Henry Winkler, Stefanie Powers and Marilyn and Alan Bergman were among the notables in attendance.

The Grammy-nominated Feinstein will perform The Sinatra Holiday Project at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in Manhattan through Dec. 30. And he recently took time to answer some of EDGE's most pressing holiday questions.

EDGE: Has getting married changed the way you celebrate the holidays?

FEINSTEIN: It gives me much deep appreciation for the word "union." To be with a special person at a time when the whole world celebrates love and unity certainly has deepened the experience.

EDGE: Does your partner require you to play and sing for him during the holidays?

FEINSTEIN: No because he knows that it something that I do so often during the holidays... and I need to rest when I'm not working.

EDGE: How did you choose the holiday songs for your Frank Sinatra show?

FEINSTEIN: Only have a few Christmas songs in the show, which is quite unusual. I'm doing a little less Christmas music this year so I could do more Sinatra swing arrangements. I had to include my favorite, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which was written by a friend of mine, Hugh Martin, who is now 95-years-old.

EDGE: Why didn't Cole Porter write any Christmas music?

FEINSTEIN: Most of the writers of what we call the Great American Songbook wrote songs for shows, for plot situations. Just as the Gershwins never wrote a Christmas song, I think it's the same with Porter, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane and Arthur Shwartz... Most of the famous Christmas songs were Tin Pan Alley creations.

EDGE: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" or Mel Torm? and Robert Wells "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)?

FEINSTEIN: Both were written in Beverly Hills and both were written during hot months of the year.

People have a love for "White Christmas" that is fascinating to me in the sense that nobody ever gets tired of that song... the song communicates a certain longing that people want to experience in music.

"The Christmas Song" is more sophisticated... because it's more cerebral. Berlin wrote "White Christmas" with more home-spun allusions, "The Christmas Song" feels a little more calculated in its construction, while "White Christmas" is a little more organic.

EDGE: Streisand's "Jingle Bells" or Grace Jones' "Little Drummer Boy?"

I've never heard Grace Jones' "Little Drummer Boy," but I did a gig once in Switzerland for a billionaire and Grace Jones and I were the artists who performed.

[I met her in the elevator.] She was with this boy toy and we were on the elevator together and she leaned over, kissed him and said "Come here, you gorgeous hunk, you."

I thought, "Do you want to be alone? I don't feel like I should be here."

She was very nice, though.

FEINSTEIN: What's your favorite "undiscovered" holiday song?

"The Secret of Christmas," written by Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. It's a glorious song. Bing Crosby sang it in the movie, Say One for Me and it also starred Debbie Reynolds.

EDGE: How did you stumble upon Pink Martini?

FEINSTEIN: A friend said "You've got to hear this group."

I loved the retro references and musicianship and scholarship of what they put into the music. The created a fresh genre out of something classic.

We met up for dinner in London about a year ago and discussed the idea of doing something together, which is how they recorded a song with me for my Sinatra recording. We will be doing a concert together at Ravinia this summer.

EDGE: You discovered a lost Joan Crawford recording, "How Long Will It Last," a song that Frank Sinatra also recorded-any chance of digging up any undiscovered Betty Davis ditties?

FEINSTEIN: I have some unreleased Bette Davis recordings. The one that I haven't been able to get my hands on is "The Ballad of the Sad Young Man" (one track that was an outtake from her album Miss Bette Davis Sings) was a fan of mine, and she used to play "Isn't it Romantic? and sing along with it.

EDGE: What is on your Christmas list?

FEINSTEIN:I look at the Christmas season as a time to really truly focus helping others any way we can. I so fervently wish for good things for our country and our world.

One of the organizations that I have been very aware of and helped before is the Minority AIDS Foundation [in Los Angeles].

Proposition 8 exit polls showed that 80 percent of the African-American community voted for the measure. Perhaps there is a greater prejudice against Gay marriage within the minority community than in the larger community, and that pains me greatly. I really wish to help my gay brothers and sisters of color.

Michael Feinstein will perform "The Sinatra Holiday Project" at Feinstein's at Loews Regency (540 Park Ave. at 61st Streets) through Dec. 30.

Shows are Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. For this engagement only, there will be shows at 8 and 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. PLEASE NOTE: there will be no 10 p.m. show on Christmas day (Thursday, Dec. 25). Performances have $95.00 general admission seats, $125.00 regular seats and $250.00 up-front seats, all with a $40.00 food and beverage minimum. Jackets are suggested but not required. Call (212) 339-4905 or visit www.feinsteinsatloewsregency.com or www.TicketWeb.com for tickets and club information.

BittenByAZebra.Com - aka Bob Johnson - is a New York-based writer, photographer and video artist.


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