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Joseph Leo Bwarie: California’s Jersey Boy

Christopher Loudon on new album from singer who plays Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys

Joseph Leo Bwarie
Joseph Leo Bwarie

Sinatra and Nelson Riddle, Ella and Buddy Bregman, Anita and Billy May, Sarah and Quincy Jones; richly symbiotic relationships between singer and arranger that rather magically prove the old adage about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Such sublime marriages are less common than they once were. You can still hear it when Michael Bublé teams with Bill Holman and in Streisand’s works with Johnny Mandel. And its also now evident throughout Nothin’ But Love, the debut album from Joseph Leo Bwarie and arranger/producer Charles Calello.

If you’ve seen the touring production of Jersey Boys then you’ve likely seen Bwarie in action. The California-born dynamo has been crisscrossing North America for nearly five years, earning rave reviews for his portrayal of legendary Four Seasons lead singer Frankie Valli. Among the 27 songs Bwarie sings in the show, many of the best known and loved – including “Walk Like A Man,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Let’s Hang On” and “Working My Way Back to You” – were originally arranged by Calello. He was, in fact, a founding member of the Four Lovers, but quit before the New Jersey foursome changed its name to the Four Seasons. He returned as the group’s arranger in 1962 and briefly reappeared in its performing lineup in 1965. Since then he has become one of the most successful independent producer/arrangers of all time, scoring 15 Grammy nominations, placing more than two-dozen pop hits in the Top Ten and shaping albums for, among others, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Streisand and Sinatra.

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