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Classics by a classic
by Krystal Bick
Apr 15, 2009 | 786 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy photo - Michael Feinstein found fame playing classic Broadway songs and was a friend of songwriting brothers Ira and George Gershwin.
Courtesy photo - Michael Feinstein found fame playing classic Broadway songs and was a friend of songwriting brothers Ira and George Gershwin.
To make a lasting mark in the music industry, it takes a certain inclined ear that is hard to come by and even harder to teach. Michael Feinstein, a singer, pianist and music archivist started showing such promise when he was only 5 years old.

The young Feinstein, who had been taking piano lessons for a matter of months, was able to anger his instructor when he stopped reading his sheet music one day, preferring instead to play by ear, with a different tune in mind.

More than 40 years, 20 albums and a few Grammy nominations later, the boyish good looks and charm reminiscent of Frank Sinatra himself are still going strong, with Feinstein coming to the Grand Sierra Resort Saturday for a night of piano lounge bar melodies with a splash of Broadway and cabaret classics.

Feinstein, who originally moved from Ohio to Los Angeles as a starry-eyed 20-year-old, is best known for his friendship with lyricist Ira Gershwin and his composer brother George, who were responsible for more than a dozen of well-known Broadway hits like “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Got Rhythm.”

Feinstein’s first job with the Gershwin brothers involved cataloging their extensive collection of phonograph records. But he would eventually later serve as a musical consultant for the Broadway show “My One and Only,” a tribute to the Gershwin tunes.

With such an influence from and close relationship with the Gershwins, Feinstein later released his first album in 1986, featuring all Gershwin songs and aptly titled “Pure Gershwin.” His unparalleled knowledge of the two brothers’ musical intricacies makes Feinstein today still one of the go-to men for Gershwin music, as it dominates much of what he performs live.

His classically smooth voice and typical accompaniment of a full orchestra during a time of ‘80s glam rock bands and Madonna set Feinstein apart and fueled the albums to come.

“Live at the Algonquin,” which truly showcased Feinstein’s piano playing, came out in 1986 and “Remember” (1990) featured songs of famous composer Irving Berlin.

Feinstein released several other albums before embarking on a larger songbook project, where he featured the work of a specific composer, alongside the composer. Such chosen composers included the likes of Burton Lane, Jule Styne and Jimmy Webb.

Now, the latest in incarnation of Feinstein’s tribute albums, “The Sinatra Project” was introduced in September of last year, marking his 24th album. Recorded entirely in Studio A of Capital Records in Los Angeles, where Frank Sinatra originally recorded, Feinstein’s work in capturing Sinatra is impeccable, with The New York Times calling him “one of the last all-around traditional entertainers in a post-vaudeville tradition.” Feinstein later received his fifth to-date Grammy nomination for “The Sinatra Project.”

And just like the “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” Feinstein keeps one foot planted well in the nightclub circuit as the owner of Manhattan’s Feinstein’s at Loews Regency as well as the Speakeasy Supper Club in Chicago. However, the latter is now closed.

Today, Feinstein has taken his musical knowledge repertoire to become named to the National Sound Recording Advisory Board by the Library of Congress, essentially safeguarding American musical heritage.

But of course, perhaps the real appeal of Feinstein lies in his entertainer-at-heart persona, embodying the suave storytellers of yesteryear, making him a rarity in today’s musical industry.

Performing nearly 150 times a year, typically in large concert halls and intimate jazz clubs, Feinstein, just as he was when he was 5, is best idolized behind the piano, with a different tune in mind.

Saturday’s show begins at 8 p.m. in the Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Theatre. Tickets are $27.50, $49.50 and $66 and are available for sale at the GSR’s box office or online at
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