Feb 7, 2012
"He sings the great songs the way they should be sung." - Woody Allen
Steve Tyrell has had a long journeyman's career in the music business, serving as record company executive, songwriter, and producer. But no one could have predicted the twist his career took in the late '90s. After he sang standards on the soundtracks of the films Father of the Bride (1991) and Father of the Bride 2 (1995), he joined a new wave of retro singers like Diana Krall and Jane Monheit, reinterpreting the Great American Songbook with their own twists and flourishes. As a producer, Tyrell worked with Rod Stewart on the British rocker’s mega-selling CD series, which helped grow interest in classic songs even further.
Tyrell has earned respect from such heavyweights as the Sinatra family and Quincy Jones, when Steve was the featured performer with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at their season opening concert in which Frank Sinatra was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. In 2005, after the passing of the legendary Bobby Short, Steve was asked by New York City’s Café Carlyle to take over their revered Holiday Season of November and December, which Mr. Short had not missed in 36 years. Now Steve has become a fixture in New York and has played the Café Carlyle to record crowds for the last 6 years.
His latest CD, I’ll Take Romance, could well serve as the soundtrack for any wedding this season. Covering not just the usual classics but tunes from Etta James and Sam Cooke, Tyrell has expanded his territory to retro-soul. I spoke with him as he prepared for a concert in Florida, and we chatted about why the Great American Songbook remains great, what his plans are in the future, and why Burt Bacharach calls him on the carpet if he doesn’t like a Tyrell version of his material. Click here to listen to the conversation, including musical selections:
Steve Tyrell – “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Don’t Know Much” and “At Last” from I’ll Take Romance. Is there a better Valentine’s Day present than this new CD? Probably not if your budget is under $20. These tracks show the depth of Steve’s song selection – a classic crooner’s tune, a modern tune that Tyrell originally produced for Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, and a tribute to one of his favorite singers, the late Etta James.
Steve Tyrell – “That Old Feeling” from Standard Time. A sax solo by Plas Johnson highlights Tyrell’s version of this chestnut, echoing a similar solo Plas took on Frank Sinatra’s 1937 version of the song for Capital Records.
Steve Tyrell – “Isn’t It Romantic” from This Guy’s In Love. Clark Terry’s trumpet solo takes this cover of the Rodgers and Hart classic to another level. Alan Pasqua plays piano; Chick Berghoffer is on bass, John Guerin on drums and Bob Mann, the musical director, on guitar.
Steve Tyrell – “I Say A Little Prayer” from Back to Bacharach. Tyrell likes to say he attended “Bacharach University”, since he worked at Scepter Records when Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick helped create a formidable body of work.