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Gary Brumburgh Goes Full Circle

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    Posted: 23 Mar 2022 at 9:48pm
Where Broadway Meets Jazz

On FULL CIRCLE, vocalist GARY BRUMBURGH revisits his early career as a musical theater artist with fresh jazz interpretations of songs from iconic shows like Cabaret, Company, Fiddler on the RoofOklahoma! and others. This is Brumburgh’s third album as a leader and follows Moonlight (2018) and Up Jumped Spring (2008).
Brumburgh performed in musical theater for close to two decades. Having appeared on stages across the country in dozens of shows, Brumburgh approaches lyrics much like an actor prepares for a role. In musical theater, lyrics are often used to advance a story. They suggest a scene setting and a character with specific emotions and motivations. Brumburgh’s training as an actor allows him to imbue lyrics with a distinct persona and highly personalized interpretations. That is why The Jazz Owl says, “Brumburgh’s voice is warm and emotion-filled, completely immersed in the feel of the song and, as stated over and over, so very believable.”
Brumburgh was just 14 years old when he began performing in school musicals. He earned a degree in Elementary Education at the University of South Florida, but teaching was never his passion and he found working within the public school system unfulfilling. After getting a chorus role in Oklahoma, he reconsidered his career path, abandoned teaching after three years, and received a second Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from Florida State University.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1978 to pursue a professional acting career and found roles in plays, musicals, commercials, movies and television, and was a back-up singer for Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé in one of their extravaganzas at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He worked extensively throughout the 1970s and 80s, appearing in Of Thee I Sing, GodspellBabes in Arms, A Little Night Music and Sugar, among others. One of the highlights of his theater career was a Los Angeles production of South Pacific in which he co-starred opposite veteran Broadway baritone John Raitt.
Despite his success on the theatrical stage, his interest in jazz was sparked after performing in an award-winning Los Angeles production of Cy Coleman’s jazz-tinged City of Angels. His new idols and influences became Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, and especially Mel Tormé. Leaving behind musical theater in 2003, Brumburgh focused solely on jazz and began performing regularly in jazz clubs around Los Angeles including Catalina Jazz Club and Feinstein’s at Vitello’s. He produced his first CD, Up Jumped Spring, in 2008 with top, L.A.-based jazz veterans. Unfortunately, two bouts of head and neck cancer sidelined his performing career for several years as he struggled to get the disease under control. The disease finally went into remission in 2016. Once Brumburgh was able to regain his voice, he returned to singing.
Brumburgh’s experience working with music producer BARBARA BRIGHTON and pianist and arranger JAMIESON TROTTER on Moonlight prompted him to reunite with both on FULL CIRCLEwhich also features GABE DAVIS on bass, CHRISTIAN EUMAN on drums, LARRY KOONSE on guitar, DANNY JANKLOW on saxes, SCOTT WHITFIELD on trombone, ROSS GAREN on harmonica, and LÉO COSTA on percussion.
The songs on FULL CIRCLE are not only some of Brumburgh’s favorite musical theater songs but are also from shows in which he performed. Trotter fashioned these musical theater songs with a creative, new jazz patina.
Brumburgh opens the album with “Everybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere” from Coleman’s City of Angels, the show that inspired him to turn to jazz. The lyrics are originally about a detective in search of a woman who may be involved in a murder. In Brumburgh’s version, the song takes on a different meaning in which he is looking for a woman that he has lost track of. The song “Celebration” is from a lesser-known show of the same name. Composed by Harvey Schmidt with lyrics by Tom Jones, Trotter’s arrangement gives the song a bluesy swing feel, with Brumburgh giving the song a “live” feel by adding the musicians as audience members with handclaps and a shout chorus.
Originally a ballad but given a bossa nova spin with a poignant guitar solo by Koonse, “Why Should I Wake Up” from Cabaret was composed by John Kander with lyrics by Fred Ebb. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” is from Oklahoma!, the show that triggered Brumburgh’s professional career in musical theater. Usually sung at a livelier tempo, Brumburgh approaches the tune instead as a soulful ballad that features a romantic trombone solo by Whitfield. “Happy Talk,” from South Pacific, is another Rodgers and Hammerstein composition. The song opens with a bebop conversation between Janklow’s sax and Trotter’s piano and features a high-speed scat and vocalese by Brumburgh. “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” is a ballad from The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. Trotter gives the arrangement a cool Latin feel that features Costa’s superb percussion accompaniment.
Having appeared in three of his musicals, Brumburgh is a major fan of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and includes his song “Sorry-Grateful” from Company because he loves the witty contradictions the composer offers to love and marriage. Brumburgh wanted to include “You’ve Got to Be Taught,” also from South Pacific, because he loves the timely message of the song. “Love I Hear,” by Sondheim from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum is sung by a young ingenue in the show. Brumburgh approaches the song as an adult reminiscing about his youth. ”I’m Glad to See You’ve Got What You Want,” also from Celebration, is a gentle swing tune about a girl and boy breaking up. Having left his home in Los Angeles for a new life in Nashville in recent years, Brumburgh was drawn sentimentally to “Far From the Home I Love,” a tender ballad from Fiddler on the Roof composed by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Garren’s harmonica adds a stirring, emotional feel. Brumburgh ends the album with a bonus track of a longer version of “Celebration” where the soloists are allowed to stretch out.
FULL CIRCLE is Brumburgh’s homage to his roots in musical theater. But this album is not a tour down memory lane. With its updated jazz arrangements coupled with Brumburgh’s warm voice and deep connection to the lyrics, FULL CIRCLE is a project that casts a new light on some of the most popular and beloved songs from the Broadway stage.
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FULL CIRCLE is set for release on March 25, 2022 on Café Pacific Records, and will be available everywhere.
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