Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Best HIV/AIDS Blogs

I'm proud to announce that the Bonus Round blog has been named by healthline.com as one of the Best HIV/AIDS blogs for 2017. At first I didn't respond to the email because I figured it was some kind of spam. Then, I got a note from Meagan Jones, following up.

I wrote back, asking how they came to choose me since, these days, I mostly link to new music.

She wrote back,"Hi Steve! Definitely not spam :). We took into account your amazing archive as well, and you have posted this year so we know you're still blogging, even if it isn't as frequent as before."

And they gave me a sparkling badge for this site.

The Best HIV and AIDS Blogs of the Year

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Cold Comfort - Schalchlin & Goffi

Jammin' out on a new song.

I called Bill Goffi the day before and said Jim Freeman had some green screen TV studio time at BRIC in Brooklyn and could we throw something together. So, this being the most recent "song of the week," I taught it to him in the hall and just said, "Sing harmony whenever you feel it."

You can see the lyrics taped between us. Then, Jim went outside the next morning and shot the sunrise in Prospect Park with his iPhone. Eureka was there, cheering us on -- and Bill chides me at the end. But there we are!

Guerrilla songwriting and creating!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

25: A Premature Retrospective gets its first official review.

Thanks to Theater Pizzazz!

"...these two charmers were retrospecting through a totally refreshing evening with some great material."

"Blake Zolfo self-confidently lures an audience in."

"Mr. Zolfo proved himself to be not only sweetly funny with a strong, beautiful voice, but a guy who holds back a little and sticks with the emotional truth of a moment."

“'He Was Too Good to Me' (Shirley Horn) and ”Manhattan” (Sara Bareilles)—“I’ll tiptoe away so you don’t have to say you heard me leave”—were subtle and riveting."

"A strong vocal team... beautiful harmonies."

"The concept was clear: Blake, 25 years old, is too young to retrospect and Steve, on piano and vocals, sardonically supported the retrospective. But along the way, one realized that in our Justin Bieber world, 25 is older than 15; and our culture is good at assigning failure at any age."

Steve Schalchlin, Brandon Flynn, Blake Zolfo.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Playing Music.

Though I do read music, I hate playing scores. My mind sees the notes that comprise the chord on a page and will fight to play anything except those actual positions, preferring to find my own chord spellings.

However, entering rehearsals on this show with Blake Zolfo -- they've asked us to return next month, May 25th -- I dutifully tried to learn how to play music he brought in. Particularly, his tap number, "What's The Point?", by John Kander and "Dreamscape" by Stephen Schwartz. Lots of notes on those pages. I drilled and drilled every morning, wanting Blake and Andy Gale, our director, to be proud of me. Wanting to get them "right," as if John and Stephen would be there in the room grading me.

(If I hit all the notes, do I get an "A"?).

But, to be honest, in rehearsal, I sucked. By having to stick so closely to the score, all the life was drained from my performance. It's just not how I play.

So, finally, in a desperate attempt to not sound terrible, I typed out the words, wrote out the chord names over the top, and threw out the score, preferring to improvise.

And the result was magical. Suddenly, they were vibrantly alive. Musical friends wondered where I had "gotten" those very sophisticated yet soulful new arrangements. Marveled at how "specific" and "innovative" it all sounded.

I didn't know how to tell them I was just making it all up on the spot because I couldn't play them the real way. The only conclusion I can come to is that, over these 63 years, I've developed a "style." It's reflected in the songs I write.

It also explains why, over the years, I struggled with writing out scores for my own songs. I almost never play them the same way twice. This can be disconcerting for a performer who needs a consistent arrangement. I might write out an arrangement and, the next day, think, "I would never play that."

But, when you're dealing with a real musician/singer like Blake, who immediately goes with the flow and feels the music, and is able to also be improvisational "in the moment," it means, for the audience, we're all getting a totally unique moment. A new show every night.

In many ways, I miss getting work, probably, because I don't have conservatory training and learned most of my skills in various bands, but I also feel sorry for musicians who cannot do this. Who cannot play a note unless it's all written out for them. Who don't understand "feel."

Last night, according to everyone I trust, and perfect strangers, was a complete triumph. Both Blake and I felt at ease, the audience was screaming at us like we were the Beatles or Beyonce, and yet, we had moments of perfect silence, helped immeasurably by the obviously well trained waiters at the Metropolitan Room, who never disturbed a single moment.

Cabaret is tricky. People want to hear songs they know, but they also want a fresh take, new material if possible, and human interaction. The art of it, when done correctly, makes you feel, at the end, as if you know the person on the stage, that they've opened up their hearts, generously.

By all accounts, this happened last night. And now we do it again in a month. I hope, if you weren't able to make it, that you come this next time.

Hal Prince talks about Zero Mostel