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Back from Russia, Rowland's Voice is Still Going Strong

Published: 2009-10-26
By Kellie Hwang, for The Arizona Republic

Local jazz singer Dennis Rowland has a bit of a cough. And no one could blame the Valley legend, who just returned from Russia following a tour of Asia and Europe.

Of course, a little cold never stopped the jazz veteran, who is preparing for a special show called “Motown Magic" with a 20-piece band at Arizona Broadway Theatre Oct. 19.

“I did a concert in the rain in Russia, which kind of got to me, but I got out just in time before the co-o-old came," he said. “But my voice is good; no one should be worried. It's all good!"

Rowland, 60, was born in Detroit and got his big break playing in the renowned Count Basie Orchestra, and during that time, performing with icons including Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald. He now performs regularly around the Valley and his talent and dedication earned him a spot in the Herberger Theater Center's Hall of Fame in 2007. Rowland talks to the Republic about the show and where his success has brought him.

Question: How was performing in Russia?
Answer: I covered a lot of different cities and did some big-band concerts in fantastic halls. It was a great experience and was my sixth trip there . . . In some places, I'm the first American act they have ever seen, so that was surprising but nice. In one place, I was probably the first American they had seen walk the streets, and it was certainly an exhilarating experience.

Q: Tell us about “Motown Magic."
A: It's based on the “Motortown Review," and I grew up in Detroit and have seen it up-close-and-personal many times. I built it around the model, so there is a heavy diet of Motown music, and it's also a tribute to the era with a few songs from other artists. People will be absolutely familiar with everything.

Q: What are some of the songs you will perform?
A: I don't ever like to give up programs because I don't want people sitting in the audience anticipating hearing a certain piece. I want them to get the whole experience. If you wait for particular songs, you turn off your ears until you hear it.

Q: What are your expectations for the show?
A: It will be a big production with aspects of the theater and it's also a concert. It's one that invites audience participation, so I think people will feel easy about singing along and enjoying the artistry. It's Motown's 50th anniversary, and while we aren't putting on the show because of that, we are certainly doing it in honor of that.

Q: What did your induction into the Herberger Hall of Fame mean to you?
A: It means I get into the Herberger free for everything (laughs). It's quite an honor with all the people there ahead of me. I look at it as recognition of the work I've done and the work I'm going to do, and it is by no means a stopping point . . . I see it as an equivalent to an athlete having a jersey retired. When they walk into an arena and look up and see the jersey that no one's going to wear ever again, I feel that way about my award.

Q: When does the future look like for you?
A: I used to look at it materialistically, at the possibility of Oscars, Emmys and things of that nature. But now I just want to be able to continue to do quality work and please people. I don't intend to stop, and I think my profile is getting larger. There are still things left to do and other opportunities to explore.

Q: Anything else you want to add?
A: There will be dancing in the street so bring your girl and use your imagination. We hope the postman stops by, my guy and my girl will be around. We just can't help ourselves and there ain't no stopping us now, if you know what I mean. We invite people to come out and dig it!

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