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All-Star Lineup Performs Gershwin Across America at Hollywood Bowl

Performers at concert include Nancy Wilson, Monica Mancini and Jason Mraz

Monica Mancini
Nancy Wilson

Tonight at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, Calif., an interesting group of singers will celebrate the music of George and Ira Gershwin in a special performance called “Gershwin Across America.” Singers Jason Mraz, Monica Mancini, BeBe Winans, Nancy Wilson and St. Vincent will perform classic Gershwin material such as “Summertime,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” The singers will be backed by an all-star big band and string sections, featuring the Shelly Berg Trio, Gordon Goodwin, Tom Scott, Arturo Sandoval and more

Laura Connelly, Director of Presentations at the Bowl, told JT in an e-mail that in deciding to salute the iconic songwriting of the Gershwins, they received input from their piano-playing Creative Chair for Jazz, who is more than a little familiar with the composing siblings. “We’d been talking with Herbie Hancock about different programming ideas and thinking about all the different recordings he’d done throughout his career,” she explained. “We had already had Herbie perform ‘Gershwin’s World’ at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Philharmonic and thought that we could use the album as a catalyst to put an all-Gerswhin evening together at the Bowl. At the same time, we’d been talking with the producer Phil Ramone who was working on a yet-to-be-released CD Gershwin Across America which focused on pop artists singing Gershwin tunes and thought it would be a great concert to make musical reference to both.”

The artists performing include not just jazz singers and musicians, but also performers from a cross-section of different music styles and genres. Connelly said said that the choice of artists was directly tied to the catholic perspectives of Hancock and Ramone. “We wanted to reflect Herbie’s global thinking about music – mixing up jazz, world music, gospel and all different genres,” she said. “So we tried to pick artists who we knew had a love for Gershwin but also represented some of the different musical genres. Co-producers Phil Ramone and Gregg Field, the musical director, also had suggestions of different people they had worked with on the Gershwin Across America CD and in other different productions. Jason Mraz sang on Gershwin Across America and is a wonderful pop singer who loves Gershwin. Nancy Wilson is the consummate jazz vocalist. Monica Mancini is extremely versatile and has sung Gershwin on a number of her CDs. Bebe Winans is also on Gershwin Across America and solidly represents the gospel genre. And St. Vincent (Annie Clark) is a really interesting alternative vocalist, who has an amazing voice, and her parents are also jazz musicians.”

The Gershwins (George and his lyric-writing brother Ira) have a unique place in the canon of American song, straddling the worlds of popular and serious music in a virtually timeless fashion. Connelly said that their songwriting still offers important lessions to songwriters of today. “George and Ira set the bar for popular songwriting back in the ’30s and it’s still true today,” she said. “If you want to write a great song (in any musical genre), you need exceptional lyrics and a really catchy, melodic tune. Name a myriad of Gershwin songs and they always had both. Any songwriter or composer today can learn from that.”

For tickets or more information about this concert or other shows at the Bowl, visit their web site or call 323.850.2000. The Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood, California.

Originally Published