Harolyn Blackwell – Blackwell Sings Bernstein: A Simple Song
Maybe it was the music of New York. While shooting the cover photo for her solo debut recording, Strange Hurt, Harolyn and the photorapher Harris Welles found themselves on a rooftop in lower Manhattan. It was a crisp, clear, windy day and, in the background behind Harolyn, the cityscape gleamed in the cool sunlight. There was Harolyn, with her face into the wind, with Manhattan behind her, and all of us who were present heard music – New York music, American music – Bernstein music. And that’s how this album was born.
Harolyn made her Broadway debut in the 1980 revival of West Side Story singing “Somewhere.” Playing the keyboard in the orchestra was a young arranger named Danny Troob. Through the run of the show and for years after Danny and Harolyn stayed friends and when it came time to put together a Bernstein recording, Danny’s was the first name that Harolyn mentioned. “It would be completing a circle,” she said. The result of that collaboration (enlisting the care and skillful ear of veteran Bernstein producer John McClure) is this recording featuring popular Bernstein songs alongside those less familiar, more classically oriented, in an effort to bridge the same gap that Bernstein was able to dance across throughout his career.
In addition to the other material on this album, both Harolyn and Danny wanted to revisit West Side Story. However, they needed an Anita. Their inspired choice was Vanessa Williams, who somehow between performing eight shows a week in Kiss of the Spider Woman, launching her newest recording, The Sweetest Days, and raising three children, found time to team up with Harolyn on the West Side Story songs. Truly a gift for all of us involved in this recording.
Bernstein’s music sings to us all. From the righteous passion of “A Julia de Burgos” to the jazzy dreaminess of “A Little Bit in Love” (and through Danny’s orchestration and musical guidance), Harolyn finds an eloquence and intensity that few singers of her generation can match.
A Simple Song is a project that has been blessed from its inception and throughout its production. All of us who have worked on it hope you enjoy it.
– Bill Rosenfield
Harolyn Blackwell, soprano
Danny Troob, Arranger and Conductor / synthesizer
Kathy Sommer, piano
John Miller, bass
Scott Kuney, guitar
Brian Koonin, nylon-string guitar
Bill Hayes, percussion
Melanie Feld, oboe / English horn
John Redsecker, drums / bell tree
Glen Drewes, trumpet / flugelhorn
Lou Marini, alto & tenor sax / flute
Bill Hicks, piano / celesta
John Beal, bass
Gordon Gottlieb, percussion
Dick Clark, trombone
Neil Balm, trumpets
Kathy Fink, flute / piccolo
Al Ragni, alto sax / clarinet / flute / piccolo
Jeff Lang, Tony Cecere, & Glen Estrin, French horns
Dominick Cortese, accordion
Sanford Allen, violin (concertmaster)
Charlie Libove, Susan Orenstein, Joyce Hammon, Cenovia Cummins, Dale Stuckenbruck, Belinda Whitney, & Robert Chausow, violins
Richard Locker & Carol Paisner, cellos
Judy Sugarman, bass
Jim Saporito, drums
Joe Passaro, percussion
Jim Pugh, tenor trombone
Paul Faulise, bass trombone
Rich Kelley & Dave Gale, trumpets
Les Scott, flute / piccolo / clarinet / bass clarinet
Mitch Weiss, clarinet / bass clarinet / E-flat clarinet (clarinet chair)
Dennis Anderson, flute / oboe / clarinet / bass clarinet (oboe chair)
John Campo, bassoon