His Way

His Way

Since becoming conductor of the Pasadena POPS four years ago, Michael Feinstein has brought his penchant for glamorous classics to the orchestra’s summer concert series at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. This Saturday, he’ll be presenting the latest edition of his most popular POPS show yet, when he sings a cornucopia of classic American standards as the soloist in “Sinatra Project: Volume 2.” 

Building off his Grammy-nominated “Sinatra Project” CD, Feinstein brings together Ol’ Blue Eyes’ biggest hits with songs that most casual fans have never heard before in a mix that only the Ambassador of the Great American Songbook can deliver.   

“Some of the songs this time include ‘Three Coins in the Fountain,’ an Oscar-winning song that’s rarely sung, and I have the original symphonic charts from the movie,” says Feinstein. “We’ll be doing songs grouped together by his favorite writers, and a Sinatra medley at the end with a lot of his standards. It’s a good combination of his swing numbers and beautiful ballads for the gorgeous strings section of the orchestra.”

Intriguingly, considering the amount of focus he puts on performing Sinatra songs, the famed crooner actually isn’t his favorite singer. Rather, Feinstein favors another performer who is more famous for his dancing skills. 

“My favorite male singer is Fred Astaire and favorite female singer is Rosemary Clooney,” says Feinstein. “Astaire had more songs written for him than any performer. Gershwin, Mercer, Kern, Lesser and many more wrote songs specifically for him, and many became standards because he was a great interpreter of the wishes of the writers and gave a deep interpretation that seemed natural and even casual.”

On the other hand, Feinstein believes that the magic of Sinatra lies in the way “he reinvented the way we listen to American popular songs.”  By that, Feinstein is referring to the fact that Sinatra put swing arrangements to American popular standards in the 1950s, creating the modern style in which those songs are interpreted. 

“Sinatra was one of the greatest interpreters of lyrics and told a story with each song,” Feinstein explains. “He was the first singer of his generation to do that, to focus in so deeply on the lyrics that it changed the way we hear these songs.”

With that duly noted, Feinstein says that he doesn’t believe in matching Sinatra’s vocal phrasings, since he feels that a direct attempt to copy his sound would be boring for both himself and the audience. Instead, he will attempt “to evoke the style and personality that’s central to the music, since it’s our fresh interpretations of songs people have heard many times that is a major reason we’ve been successful.” 

Looking ahead to the remainder of the summer series, Feinstein will serve mainly as conductor of “Cole Porter Night” on Aug. 20 and “A Salute to Warner Bros.” on Sept. 10.  While he might sing a couple of songs on each evening’s program, he notes that the Porter show will feature Catherine Russell and Nick Ziobro as the event’s soloists.  

The Porter show will present several arrangements of the composer’s works that have either not been heard publicly ever, “or at least not in 70 years.” Among his discoveries for the show were orchestral charts created by famed conductor Nelson Riddle which have never been played before in Los Angeles, a new Cole Porter overture by fellow POPS conductor Larry Blank and the original 1934 overture of from the Broadway musical version of “Anything Goes.” 

Yet it was the Warner Bros. tribute show that provided Feinstein with his most intriguing research possibilities. Traveling to the studio’s archive at USC, he received permission to copy several original Warner Bros. arrangements. 

“Many have never been heard outside of the movies in which they’ve been featured before, and I’ll be including material from every decade of the Warner Bros. story,” says Feinstein. “There’ll be Busby Berkeley numbers, the theme from ‘A Summer Place,’ and the John Williams theme from the original Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ movie. We’ll  run the gamut of many decades of Warner Bros., plus have dancers for that show, great singers, and recreate songs from their films adapted from Broadway including  ‘The Music Man,’ ‘Camelot’ and the film overture of ‘Gypsy’ created for the Warner Bros. film. Many people only know the Broadway overture.” 

With all that creativity bursting forth, Feinstein has found himself deeply appreciative of both the POPS management as well as their devoted fans. He noted that his greatest pleasure of working with the orchestra is that the devotees are willing to follow demanding creative twists to standards. 

“It’s been wonderful because the support of the community and audience is so exciting,” says Feinstein. “The orchestra is incredibly gifted, all brilliant musicians. Many have worked in Hollywood and play all different types of music. They appreciate playing music that’s difficult for them. It’s demanding and one of the reasons we’re successful is that audiences realize this is the only place they’ll be able to hear these versions of these songs. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.” 


The Pasadena POPS presents “Sinatra Project Volume 2” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, 311 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. Tickets are $10 to $132. Call (626) 793-7172 or visit pasadenasymphony-pops.com. 

His Way

His Way

Former Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda will be discussing his new book “My Way” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Library Community Room at the South Pasadena Library, 1115 El Centro St., South Pasadena. 

 

The Hall of Famer will be accompanied by his co-author Colin Gunderson, who served as Lasorda’s assistant and press coordinator for 12 years.

 

“I want fans and readers to learn about Tommy from the people who know him best, the players,” said Gunderson. “I have always been inspired by his life and what he has done in his career and I always wanted his contributions to the Dodgers and the game to be remembered.”

 

Dodger historian and former Pasadena Star-News sports writer Mark Langill will moderate the event.  

 

“It’s a unique perspective of a public figure and Colin goes behind the scenes because of his position all those years as Tommy’s assistance,” Langill told the Weekly. “I served in that position in 2007 and I have a great appreciation for Colin who rode shotgun for 12 years.”

 

Lasorda served as the Dodgers general manager from 1976 to 1996. He won two World Series in 1981 and 1988, four National League pennants and eight division titles.

 

The book is about Lasorda’s impact on others and only tells the story from his own perspective in the last chapter.  

 

Legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, former pitcher Orel Hershiser, former catcher Mike Piazza, former first baseman Steve Garvey and many other Dodger all-time greats help to paint Lasorda as a man who cares deeply about being of service to others and helping them to succeed.

 

The title of the book is inspired by the song made famous by Lasorda’s friend, Frank Sinatra. 

 

Each chapter is named after one of the virtues espoused by Lasorda — “self confidence,” “competitiveness,” “patriotism” and “loyalty.”  

 

Joe Torre, former Dodgers manager and currently executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, wrote the foreword.  

 

No tickets or reservations are necessary, but seating is limited. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. sharp and refreshments will be provided. Autographed books will be available for purchase, but no other merchandise will be signed. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

His way

His way

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens has officially announced the donation of a significant literary archive of Los Angeles poet and novelist Charles Bukowski to the institution by Bukowski’s widow, Linda Lee Bukowski.

Charles Bukowski, who lived from 1920 to 1994, penned more than 50 novels and books of poetry such as “Ham on Rye,” “Women,” “Hollywood” and “Factotum,” which was recently made into a film starring Matt Dillon.

For the first half of his life, Bukowski worked assorted odd jobs, including a decade-long stint with the US Postal Service. He wrote about his dead-end work, his abusive childhood and his dramatic bouts of drinking and debauchery. He also often wrote graphically of sex and violence, and became known for his potent depictions of “life on the streets” that resonated with readers who felt disenfranchised or marginalized.

By the latter half of his life, Bukowski began to be seriously considered as a great contributor to American literature. His books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into almost every European language.

A ‘stunning’ gift

Sue Hodson, curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington Library, received a call a couple of years ago from an attorney for Linda Lee Bukowski inquiring about placing a literary archive. Hodson was happy to help, although she knew The Huntington would probably not be able to win a bidding war over the collection. But a year later, Hodson heard from Linda again and, learning it would be a gift, carefully detailed The Huntington’s access policies and preservation tactics.

“Seeing the stuff go out of the house, that’s hard for any donor to do, especially a surviving spouse. It was important for us to recognize that and be aware of it,” says Hodson.

Unlike many university or public libraries, The Huntington does not allow just anyone from the public to access their research collections. Researchers who do not already have a Ph.D. must formally apply for reader privileges, which include providing two references. Once accepted, readers view materials in a specially monitored reading room where bags and pens are prohibited. Readers are able to handle original material, but if the material becomes too fragile, it is retired from use and replaced by a copy.

Beyond its sterling reputation for taking great care with historic works, what also helped was Linda’s longtime relationship with The Huntington as a visitor.

“When she and her husband would drive up this way from their home, he would drop her off here, and she would spend the afternoon in the garden while he went over to Santa Anita and spent the afternoon at the races betting on the ponies. So she already had a great affection for The Huntington. It all just came together,” says Hodson. “The fact that Linda could see her way to make this a gift is just a stunning and incredibly generous thing for her to do, which you don’t often see in this day and age.”

The collection is still pouring in, and even Hodson doesn’t know how big it will eventually turn out to be. In the meantime, The Huntington has received hundreds, if not thousands, of corrected typescripts of poems and also of Bukowski’s popular novel “Ham on Rye” and the screenplay to “Barfly,” a 1987 film based on his life. Many of the typescripts are decorated with original doodles by the author. The archive also contains nearly every first edition of Bukowski’s published books, scores of fine press and foreign editions and several dozen early small press publications containing his work.

One fine press 1968 edition of “At Terror Street and Agony Way” is one of only 75 hardbound editions published by Black Sparrow Press that have

original signatures and illustrations by the author. Early grassroots publications include several issues starting in the ’40s of a small literary journal titled “Matrix,” which Bukowski continued to contribute to even after he became famous. Linda also donated many first editions of books including “Screams From the Balcony,” “Open All Night,” “Betting on the Muse,” “Reach for the Sun” and “What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire,” to name a few.

Additionally, The Huntington has received a number of Bukowski’s fan letters. Many of them, despite the graphic sexual nature of his work, are from women. “He wasn’t handsome, certainly,” says Hodson, “but there was a lot of character and a lot of mystery in his face. He was extremely charismatic, and I think a lot of women responded to that.”

An ‘odd’ fit?

In 1965, John Martin was new to the world of publishing and sought out Charles Bukowski, then working at the Post Office, and recruited him to join the upstart Black Sparrow Press. A few years later, Martin offered Bukowski part of his own salary as a monthly stipend to help the then-budding author quit his job and dedicate himself entirely to writing. A relationship was born, and Bukowski would stick with Black Sparrow for the rest of his life.

Bukowski’s writing, he said, found a way of connecting with all sorts of different people.

“The whole drift in American letters has been communication — clear, concise, accurate communication — and that’s the way that Bukowski wrote his novels, his short stories and his poems: without any artifice, without any desire to implant hidden meanings or dodge issues. He had the talent to articulate what he felt and saw, so that made him very important, and it changed the whole course of American poetry,” says Martin, now retired from publishing.

Yet, it’s the graphic nature of Bukowski’s work that may have some raising their eyebrows at

The Huntington’s latest addition. Hodson is quick to dismiss the suggestion.

“The Huntington has this very staid, proper, conservative image, and Bukowski is anything but, and we like the fact that he’s here. It pushes the envelope a bit, and that’s good for us. We’re not all Jane Austen and high tea here; there’s more than that. The overwhelming response I’ve gotten from people is completely positive,” she says.

Martin also believes the two are a good match.

“Bukowski does have a reputation as ‘the outsider’ and as ‘the rowdy poet,’ but that’s exactly what they said about Walt Whitman a hundred years ago; his work was once referred to as ‘barbaric yawp.’ Now, of course, we know that Whitman was the most important poet of the 19th century in America, and who knows where Bukowski will end up? It could be the same thing,” he says.

Still, Hodson acknowledges that some of the material may present a challenge when it is displayed as part of the debut Bukowski exhibit, slated for late 2010.

“I do have to think about the fact that families come through and that school groups come through. However, we’re not in the business of censorship here. I don’t know yet in every detail how we’ll handle it, but I’m not going to censor or sanitize or lighten Bukowski. He is one of the most important and original writers in American literature, and we can’t pull the teeth. He is what he is.

“We collect authors that we think have a lasting legacy as writers, whose works will stand the test of time, and who are worthy of research and study and appreciation by the public. Bukowski fits all of those, so I’m not concerned if people disagree with us,” she says.

Mass appeal

Like it has in other controversial exhibits, such as the one on 20th-century novelist Christopher Isherwood that elicited criticism because the author was gay and not part of the typically accepted literary canon, The Huntington may provide a forum for visitor comments that can later be incorporated into the collection.

Naysayers aside, Hodson predicts that this will be one of the most popular collections at The Huntington. Already she has received numerous letters, emails and phone calls from people excited to get at the archive, which won’t be available to researchers for at least a year, if not two. And a sold-out Sept. 20 event in celebration of Bukowski was two-thirds filled before The Huntington even made an official announcement.

“I’ve just been stunned by this,” Hodson says of the overwhelming response, “and yet in retrospect I shouldn’t have been. His writing speaks to the common man and woman. I had an archivist, a colleague of mine, email me after we made the announcement. He said that at one point in his life, when he was working a dead-end job, very much as Bukowski did, he would paste Bukowski’s poems on the walls and that would help get him through those hard days.”

Perhaps part of his appeal, says Martin, has something to do with the man himself.

“I used to tell people who had this erroneous view of Bukowski, ‘I never saw him drunk, I never heard him raise his voice, I never saw him angry.’ Granted, everybody has a private life that people don’t see, but I never saw any of those things. I considered him the most intelligent, kind, careful, honest person I’ve ever known. If I really needed the answer to a difficult question and there was one person I could ask, the only person I know who would give me an absolutely honest, straight, unadorned answer would be Bukowski, because that’s the way he thought and that’s the way he did things,” he says.

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