A lot of great things have happened in John Proulx
’s life. He recorded three albums on the MAXJAZZ label, played with some amazing musicians and toured extensively, making many friends and fans across the country. But after the owner of MAXJAZZ passed away and the catalogue was sold to Mack Avenue Records, Proulx decided it was time to expand his horizons and take his career along a new and exciting path. His newest project, called Say It
, is the first album he’s produced independently.
Each of his albums have expressed a different time in his life and musical journey. His new CD reflects the depth of experience of a man in his early-40’s with a career in full-stride and a beautiful wife and two children. Proulx has always been a sensitive pianist, which is why he’s often busy working as an accompanist for other vocalists, and he exhibits his facility with different styles throughout the CD. He can swing hard or he can play with a gentle subtlety that melds beautifully with his lyrical, tenor voice.
Proulx approaches lyrics with a lot of heart and empathy. But that isn’t to say he takes himself too seriously. That’s why he chose songs like Mose Allison
’s sardonic “I Don’t Worry About a Thing” or Michael Franks’ “Scatsville,” in which he declaims, “My Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Scat!" (and then launches into an impressive scat solo). But even on tunes like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” or “The Summer Knows,” by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Marilyn & Alan Bergman, he sings with a wistfulness without a hint of world-weary disenchantment.
The ten songs on this project are a mix of lesser-known jazz standards and jazz interpretations of pop songs by a diverse group of composers. Proulx chose these songs because they are beautifully constructed both melodically and lyrically. He knew that these mostly familiar songs would lend themselves to a fresh, new sound with updated, modern jazz arrangements.
To help him shape his ideas, he brought on board his old friend Judy Wexler
to produce the project. Wexler is a vocalist with four critically acclaimed CDs of her own and a mainstay on the Los Angeles jazz scene.
Being a jazz musician based in Los Angeles has given Proulx the opportunity to play with some of the best musicians on the planet. Two legendary musicians, bassist Chuck Berghofer
and drummer Joe La Barbera
, have appeared on all of Proulx’s previous CDs and join him once again on this recording. According to Proulx, “Chuck and Joe have been my musical bedrock. I love the way they inspire me to play and sing. I’m particularly close to Chuck, who’s really a father figure for me. I even dedicated a song to him, called “The Chuckster,” on my last CD.”
Also joining Proulx are guitarist Larry Koonse
and saxophonist Bob Sheppard
. The two highly respected, in-demand musicians, have also recorded with Proulx before.
em>Say It also features a duet with Proulx and Melissa Manchester
, the pop diva who’s been performing since the 1970s and has recorded 21 albums to date. The duo sings together on “Stained Glass,” a tune they co-wrote. Proulx met Manchester five years ago when he was recommended by trombonist Bill Watrous
as a substitute keyboard player for Manchester’s band. Proulx started subbing and eventually became her permanent keyboardist, regularly singing with her in live shows. “Stained Glass” is the second composition they co-wrote. They also co-wrote “Big Light” for Manchester’s album You Gotta Love the Life, which was performed as a duet with Manchester and Al Jarreau.
Proulx has been a big fan of Grammy-winning pianist, composer, and arranger Alan Broadbent
, whom he met while performing with Jane Monheit. Broadbent sent Proulx “The Last Goodbye,” a tune he wrote with lyricist Georgia Mancio. Proulx was blown away by the song and knew he had to record it on this CD, so he asked Broadbent to write a string arrangement for it, as well as for “The Summer Knows” and “Both Sides Now.” The lush string arrangements are performed by The Gina Kronstadt
Proulx is a highly accomplished interpreter of standards. As a pianist, he has a sure sense of swing, which, combined with his warm, intimate voice, make for highly appealing renditions of tunes like “Gentle Rain,” “Something to Live For,” “Watch What Happens,” and “Say It.”
As the saying goes “when one door closes another opens,” and that’s certainly been Proulx’s experience. He took advantage of being fully independent to explore who he is as an artist and then followed that path to create a CD of great warmth, affection, and sophistication.
About John Proulx
John Proulx is a Grammy-winning composer. Jazz legend Nancy Wilson recorded These Golden Years," a song that Proulx co-wrote with lyricist D. Channsin Berry, for her 2006 Grammy-winning CD, Turned to Blue
. Besides performing as a leader, Proulx is also a busy sideman, and has performed with jazz luminaries such as Anita O'Day and Natalie Cole, and pop artist Melissa Manchester.
In 2009, Proulx spent four months at the prestigious Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency hotel in New York City playing a nightly solo piano/vocal engagement. Since then, John has appeared on Michael Feinstein’s radio show on NPR, “Song Travels,” as well as on Marian McPartland’s radio show, “Piano Jazz.” John recently moved back to Grand Rapids, Michigan to pursue a Master’s degree from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.