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Deborah Shulman melds jazz with Shakespeare

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    Posted: 01 Apr 2019 at 2:49am
VOCALIST DEBORAH SHULMAN MELDS 
JAZZ WITH SHAKESPEARE 
ON THE ARTFUL 
"THE SHAKESPEARE PROJECT"
AVAILABLE FEBRUARY 22, 2019 ON SUMMIT RECORDS

Shakespeare and jazz may seem like an incongruous pairing, but on THE SHAKESPEARE PROJECT, vocalist DEBORAH SHULMANhandles the synthesis of these disparate art forms with aplomb. Shulman is an artful singer with a background in musical theater. She has played clubs in London, Sydney, Manila, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and has opened for stars such as Johnny Ray, Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence. Among her musical theater roles, she portrayed Jellylorum in the second National Company of CATS at the Schubert Theater in Los Angeles.
 
Shulman says that Shakespeare has been part of her life for as long as she can remember and became a serious student of Shakespeare from junior high through college. "I think Shakespeare is the most profound conveyor of the human condition of any writer from any age," says Shulman. "Although his words were written over 400 years ago, they're still as relevant today as when he wrote them. I guess the human condition never changes."
 
In 1987, Shulman was able to secure the rights from John Dankworth and Cleo Laine to co-produce a theatrical production of "Word Songs." Shulman was a cast member, and the play contained many of the songs from their popular 1964 album Shakespeare and All That Jazz. The melding of jazz with lyrics from Shakespeare plays and sonnets struck a chord with Shulman, and, although 30 years had passed, their music was the inspiration for THE SHAKESPEARE PROJECT.
 
Shulman teamed up pianist and arranger JEFF COLELLA to make the project a reality. Colella is one of Los Angeles' busiest jazz pianists. Besides performing in concert as a solo artist and with his trio, he maintains a very active schedule as an accompanist, recording artist, arranger, clinician and teacher. Colella previously worked with Shulman on her 2012 release Lost in the Stars, which combined jazz with musical theater and classical music. "Jeff is an amazing arranger and player. He has a way of making complex arrangements very approachable," says Shulman. "With his jazz chops and classical training, I couldn't imagine working with anyone else. It was a real collaborative effort."
 
There is no shortage of top-notch musicians in Southern California, and this recording features some of best players on any coast. Besides Jeff Colella on piano, ABRAHAM LABORIEL and CHRIS COLANGELO switch off on the bass chair, while the inimitable JOE LABARBERA and KENDALL KAY play drums on different tracks. Multi-reed master BOB SHEPPARD plays tenor and soprano sax, clarinet and bass clarinet, and flute, and the world-renowned BOB McCHESNEY plays trombone. Guitarist LARRY KOONSE is ubiquitous on the So Cal jazz scene and contributes his stunning guitar work on seven tracks.
 
Shulman included music by John Dankworth, Arthur Young, and Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn for THE SHAKESPEARE PROJECT. There are also two original compositions by Colella.
 
Shulman's background in theater and deep knowledge of Shakespeare combined with her wide vocal range that can easily navigate Colella's intricate arrangements, her clear articulation and nuanced phrasing makes the meaning of the 17th century poetry sound as if it were written for modern ears. Shulman says, "I wanted to make sure that people who haven't spent much time with Shakespeare's works could understand the words. Some of the lyrics are real tongue-twisters, and phrasing them in ways that fit in modern jazz settings was a challenge."
 
Shulman sets up the project with a medley consisting of "All the World's a Stage" from "As You Like It" and "If Music Be the Food of Love" from "Twelfth Night." Composed by Dankworth, Colella updates the arrangement with a darker hue and more contemporary jazz feel.
 
"Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind" from "As You Like It" and "Oh Mistress Mine" from "Twelfth Night" are two Arthur Young tunes from his 1941 Decca release "Shakespeare in Swing." Young, the pianist and composer who died in 1965, has fallen into obscurity today, but he left behind his legacy of jazzy interpretations of Shakespeare.
 
"My Love is as a Fever" and "Take All My Loves" are two Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn compositions that originally appeared on Shakespeare and All That Jazz. The tunes are based on Sonnet 147 and Sonnet 40 respectively. "Take All My Loves," features bluesy solos by Colella and Koonse, while Laboriel funks it up and McChesney's trombone and Shulman's voice weave around each other in sinewy textures.
 
"Who is Sylvia," from "Two Gentlemen of Verona," was composed by Dankworth and re-arranged by Colella as a duet with Shulman and Laboriel. Franz Shubert was also captivated by the poem and wrote an arrangement for it in 1826. Steve Winwood, the English songwriter and musician, was also intrigued by the lyrics and wrote a Rock and Roll arrangement for it as well.
 
Colella wrote compositions for "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day," Sonnet 18 and "When to the Session of Sweet Silent Thought," Sonnet 30, two of Shulman's favorites. Colella is a composer with an ear for beautiful, sometimes ethereal melodies. "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day" features a sensitive duet with Colella and Koonse on guitar. 
 
Although THE SHAKESPEARE PROJECT was inspired by the Cleo Laine/John Dankworth recording, Shulman and Colella have created a truly unique project. Firmly rooted in contemporary jazz but garnished with classical elements and Shakespeare's poetry, Shulman is the rare singer who can bridge the disparate elements and make them feel as if they naturally belong together. Because for Shulman, music and Shakespeare are the food of love.
 
 
THE SHAKESPEARE PROJECT is available at summitrecords.com and online as of February 22, 2019. 
 
Online:
www.summitrecords.com

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