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High Standards: The Legacy of the Great American Songbook

High Standards: The Legacy of the Great American Songbook

Posted: February 10, 2012

As part of its Year of the Arts programming, Buffalo State will celebrate the artistry of American Cabaret in a concert-lecture series, “High Standards: The Legacy of the Great American Songbook,” on February 23, March 1, and March 8 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

“Each of these singer-pianists has received international acclaim entertaining in intimate jazz and cabaret settings,” said Ari Silverstein, a 2003 Buffalo State graduate and New York City real estate broker who collaborated with the Student Life Office and the Music Department to bring the series to Buffalo. “Their main focus has been keeping the American Songbook tradition alive.”

The artists will present daytime discussion-demonstrations moderated by Silverstein and Chuck Mancuso, professor of music and author of Popular Music and the Underground: Foundations of Jazz, Blues, Country, and Rock, 1900-1950. On the same day as the discussion, each artist will perform a theme-oriented concert at 7:00 p.m.

Steve Ross (pictured at top), known as “the Crown Prince of Cabaret,” is the leading male artist in the genre. A native of New Rochelle, New York, Ross has been compared to Cole Porter and Noel Coward and has performed shows on numerous topics including composers, lyricists, and entertainers. He will present the discussion-demonstration, “From Saloon to Salon: Traveling with My Piano,” from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m., Thursday, February 23, in Rockwell Hall 124. He will recount his evolution from simple piano bars to the more exclusive performance rooms in upscale hotels such as the Stanhope and the Algonquin, home to the world-famous Algonquin Round Table. During his 7:00 p.m. performance, Ross will bring the music of Fred Astaire to life in “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” in the Burchfield Penney Auditorium.

Kathleen Landis broke the mold of female singers who acted as stand-up vocalists, and she helped establish female pianist/singers as serious musicians in a male-dominated field. She joins such great female vocalists as Hazel Scott, Barbara Carroll, Diana Krall, and Ann Hampton Calloway. During her discussion/demonstration, “From New York’s Café Pierre to Buffalo’s Burchfield Penney,” 12:15 p.m., Thursday, March 1, in the Burchfield Penney Auditorium, Landis will talk about the importance of Alec Wilder’s groundbreaking tome American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950, and how she established her career. At 7:00 p.m. she will perform “While We’re Young: A Tribute to Alec Wilder,” a collection of treasured cabaret and classical compositions written and influenced by Wilder, who attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music.

Bob Dorough, age 89, a longtime jazz-cabaret cult singer and songwriter who penned such classics as “I’m Hip,” and “Devil May Care,” also wrote many of the songs for “Schoolhouse Rock!”, the educational series that became a staple of Saturday morning television in the 1970s. His discussion-demonstration, “From Bebop to Schoolhouse Rock,” at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, March 8, in the Burchfield Penney Auditorium, examines a stellar career penning jazz classics, recording with Miles Davis, and writing clever songs that helped a generation of children grasp grammar, math, science, and history. He will perform a collection of previously noted classics, in his 7:00 p.m. concert, “From Bebop to Schoolhouse Rock!”

“Unlike most traditional singers who offer a ‘list’ of unconnected standards, this trio has honed the difficult but rewarding cabaret-themed shows that elevate their performances to intimate theater-like experiences,” Mancuso said.

All lectures are free. Tickets to the evening concerts cost $5 for Burchfield Penney members, Buffalo State faculty and staff, and $10 for the general public. Students are admitted free.

Tickets can be purchased at the Burchfield Penney or online at For more information, call (716) 878-6011. The Student Life Office and a grant from the Faculty Student Association funded the series.

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