by Mike Breen
Former local Jazz musicians getting national exposure playing with a Jazz icon and a Pop superstar
Jazz musician Brian Newman, Ohio native and graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, has become a New York City Jazz scene staple with his group’s popular residencies in the city. And he’s been popping up on national television a lot recently thanks to his role as the bandleader of Lady Gaga’s Jazz projects. Gaga has employed Newman’s group for various Jazz performances over the past few years, including surprise club gigs in NYC and the singer’s 2011 network TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving.Newman and his group, which features fellow CCM grads (and onetime players in Cincinnati’s music scene) Steve Kortyka (saxophone), Alex Smith (piano) and Scott Ritchie (bass), have also been working with American music icon Tony Bennett, thanks to Bennett and Gaga’s recent collaborative album, Cheek to Cheek, released in late September. For live and promotional appearances, Gaga’s Jazz backers meld with Bennett’s.Newman and Kortyka were recently seen backing Bennett on The Tonight Show (Gaga was unable to make the appearance, but taped an intro for the segment).
Newman was also the “guest bartender” on the popular Bravo show, Watch What Happens Live. The trumpeter got sucked into the action during the “after show” when his mom and dad called in; click here to check out the cute clip in which Newman thanks his parents for letting him do whatever he wanted and pursue his musical career.The full CCM-schooled crew will be featured on Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE!, part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series. Filmed at Lincoln Center in late July, the hourlong concert special premieres on Cincinnati PBS channel WCET on Oct. 24 at 9 p.m.
CCM-trained former local musician brings fiance home to meet the Blue Wisp
Local Jazz fans who keep an eye on the clubs for young
players coming out of University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of
Music no doubt remember trumpeter Brian Newman in the late ’90s/early
’00s. A Cleveland native, Newman ultimately landed in New York City
after graduation and started working. He’s been there over a decade now.
Newman hit the NYC scene hard, earned a
steady stream of gigs and met some key contacts. Putting together a band
with some fellow CCM grads (including Alex Smith on organ, Paul Francis
on drums, bassist Scott Ritchie and Steve Kortyka on tenor sax), Newman
scored a sweet residency at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room. His shows have
been a big draw, as Newman and crew do the “hip lounge lizard” thing
with a healthy dose of humor thrown in. Turns out Newman is a pretty
solid singer as well, lending his hearty vocals to standards like “It
Had to Be You” and “That’s Life.” Along
with a slew of other performing gigs, Newman also holds a residency at
Duane Park, where one of those “contacts” — Newman’s girlfriend (now
fiancé) Angie Pontani — came into play.One of the biggest names in modern burlesque, Pontani (of The
World Famous Pontani Sisters, pictured) and many of her dancer friends appear at
the shows (and no doubt do wonders for the draw). Newman’s friendship
with Lady Gaga’s boyfriend also led to a friendship and professional
relationship with Gaga herself. He’s Gaga’s go-to Jazz guy, performing
with the Pop star and his CCM pals, notably, on her network TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving (where Newman got to perform with Tony Bennett, as well), the Today Show and the MTV Video Music Awards. Gaga has performed on Newman’s turf also — her guest appearances during Newman’s Jazz gigs often make music news headlines. Recently featured on the soundtrack to the movie Friends With Kids, Newman has also just issued a live document of his Oak Room shows, Live from New York City.
Newman and Pontani are doing a trio of Ohio shows this week as
“Burlesque-a-Pades,” featuring Jazz from Newman and his quintet and
dancing from Pontani and friends. Tonight, they'll shake things up at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club. Showtime is 7 p.m. and this event is
open to those 21 and up only.Here's a clip from the Gaga TV special. That's Newman introducing the festivities (and rockin' the trumpet).And here are the Pontanis doing their thang with longtime collaborators Los Straitjackets last year.And here is Newman and Co. from earlier this year.
by Mike Breen
Posted In: Music History
at 11:45 AM | Permalink
Lyle Lovett's celebrity marriage ends and Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett jam with CCM grads
On this day in 1995, what was seen as one of the strangest "celebrity marriages" ever came to an end as movie star Julia Roberts and singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett announced their separation after being married just 21 months. Although, in hindsight, was the coupling really as odd as it was made out to be at the time?People magazine played up the "beauty and the beast" plot line, suggesting Lovett was some sort of dog-faced weirdo who somehow, miraculously tricked America's sweetheart into marrying him just three weeks after they met. But Lovett is a smart, funny guy who seems genuine, sincere and nice. And it's not like he looked like Joseph Merrick or anything. He did have an unruly, big hairstyle, which seemed enough to make the storyline work. (When Roberts returned to The Pelican Brief set after tying the knot, the cast and crew members reportedly wore T-shirts that said "Welcome Back, Mrs. Lovett" on the front and, on the back, "He's A Lovely Boy … But You Really Must Do Something About His Hair.")People magazine's extensive coverage post-separation was typical of how most media treated the relationship. "From the very beginning of the Julia-Lyle fairy tale — beautiful-but-vulnerable movie star falls big for intriguingly offbeat country crooner — wishful thinking seems to have had an edge over dour common sense." Maybe they were right — two people from vastly different entertainment fields, especially when one is "classically" more attractive and monetarily more successful then the other, will never work out. Roberts went on to marry a cameraman — Daniel Moder — with whom she had three kids. They've been together for a decade. And Lovett has been dating film producer April Kimble since 1999. Lovett has written several touching-to-hilarious songs about love, relationships and marriages. My favorite is the amusing "An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song)" from his 1986 self-titled, debut album. But here's the song "Fiona," from his 1996, post-divorce album, The Road to Ensenada, which many feel includes several songs about Roberts. "Fiona"'s intended subject is pretty clear — that's Roberts middle name and what Lovett called her "in code" on stage during the early stages of their hook-up.Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 28 birthday include Country/Pop star (and actress) Reba McEntire (1955); Country singer/songwriter Rodney Atkins (1969); Pop singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson (1973); guitarist with New Wave revivalists The Killers, Dave Keuning (1976); rapper J-Kwon (1986); and superstar Lady Gaga (1986).In the Best of Cincinnati issue out today, we included a pick on a collective of Jazz players — all graduates of U.C.'s College-Conservatory of Music — who joined Gaga and Tony Bennett on last year's hit network TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. Steve Kortyka (saxophone), Brian Newman (trumpet), Alex Smith (piano) and Scott Ritchie (bass) made up her band for the duet of "The Lady is a Tramp." That's Newman playing the opening riff and introducing the entire special. Check out an interview with Newman about playing with Gaga here.