Singer, Dancer, Actor
New Release January 2017 Gershwin For My Soul Gershwin For My Soul
represents a full circle journey for Cleveland
-born baritone Elijah Rock. He began singing at age 13 and stepped up to his first Gershwin songs at 16 in Porgy & Bess" at the Cleveland Institute of Music. No less than the great Freddy Cole once told him, Learn a standard a day and you'll be alright!" Along with the Great American Songbook, show tunes, art songs and other classics that colored him Broadway-bound, Elijah always returned to Gershwin. It was while doing Words By Ira Gershwin" that he learned how brothers George & Ira were godfather geniuses of Tin Pan Alley in the early 20th century. Reading Michael Feinstein's book The Gershwins and Me" sealed the deal.
Carrying this art forward, Elijah Rock dove into this project with relish and the trio of producer/arranger/pianist Kevin Toney, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Greg Paul, plus guitarist Jacques Lesure in the west coast jazz sanctuary of Nolan Shaheed's studio. The 12-song CD opens with S'Wonderful," a tender fitting contemporary take a la Al Jarreau
Fascinatin' Rhythm" and Our Love Is Here To Stay" are drenched in that punchy syncopated manner that most recalls their original era, the latter with some of Toney's signature piano flourish. I Can't Get Started" swings and chugs with a four on the floor groove while the lovely Long Ago and Far Away" floats on a slow hot wind bossa beat. Elijah milks the rarely heard extended introduction to How Long Has This Been Goin' On" before it falls like feathers into the brushed blues of its well known verses.
The second half of Gershwin For My Soul
is where more chances are taken. The title track—the sole original penned by Rock and Toney—is a hip churchy blues where Elijah testifies his fascination with all things Gershwin. It's followed boldly by Tchaikovsky (And Other Russians)," a Hip Hop Swing interlude perfect post the Tonys- sweeping genre bending musical Hamilton." And Elijah brings his tap shoes in for solo and drum-dueling duties on the revival rave-up stomp I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'." Most movingly, the focus becomes sheer aural nudity on a trio of ballads Elijah submerges into that showcase the full resonant beauty of his voice and his skills of interpretation from the acting world. They are the relaxed and romantic Shall We Dance" (solely accompanied by the guitar of John Storie), the parlor song swoon of Love Walked In" (featuring solo piano introduction and accompaniment by Toney), and the tour de force closer Isn't It a Pity," a bluesy ballad wish of delicious diction and a heart-stopping dip into a cinematic so long.
Before this experience, I hadn't really embraced the balladeer aspect of my gift," Rock reflects. It was about me being vulnerable enough to know I could do it. It's been an interesting transformation...everything slowed down. There's space for introspection and that moment to moment feeling of the lyric. I fell in love with the space between the notes and the simplicity of telling the story."
Rock—whose resume boasts a decade and a half of acclaimed, across-the-board accomplishments in stage, film and television—found the perfect collaborator in Kevin Toney whose work as a keyboardist, composer, arranger, author, educator and co- founder of the '70s R&B-Jazz group The Blackbyrds provided the optimal springboard for Rock to bounce concepts off. Kevin Toney is a virtuoso whose experience speaks for itself," Rock says. We brought our authentic creative selves to the material and, in that, it became uniquely our."
This story appears courtesy of Scott Thompson Public Relations.
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