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BEYOND THE RAT PACK

Singing pianist David Anthony Zee undresses jazz-era songs from their traditional attire, guided by producer Noel Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul & Mary)


Some of the musical hooks are as familiar as nursery rhymes: "Baby face, you've got the cutest little baby face"...."It had to be you, it had to be you."

Other compositions are more obscure, originally recorded by singing groups who faded long ago from the public eye; only remembered, if at all, by those born before the post-WWII baby boom: The Four Freshmen, the Boswell Sisters.

But the new recordings of almost-a-century-old songs share one quality: none of them sound like their traditional arrangements. Swing standard "It Had to be You" becomes a Jerry Lee Lewis-inspired foot-stomping boogie woogie; "Baby Face" gets a Burt Bacharach makeover; "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" from Flapper times receives a jolt of reggae-influenced rhythm.

In a new collection called "AfterTIME," singer / pianist David Anthony Zee and producer Noel Paul Stookey, whose folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary is also a time-tested standard, have concocted a unique musical stew from classic ingredients.

"There are many artists in the second millenium delivering jazz songs as period pieces, singing "Cheek to Cheek" in a tux or evening gown by a piano with a candelabra, or swinging and snapping cool and loose like the Rat Pack, and I love those approaches," explained Zee. "We wanted to take these tunes and lyrics to another place, pull them out of their traditional contexts, let their universal lustre shine in new settings. Instead of bringing new audiences back to the old styles, we are trying to bring the old songs into newer styles."

Stookey suggested various entries from the Great American songbook of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, songs he believed could stand up to modern interpretation. As the updated arrangements took shape, Stookey dubbed the hybrid form "retro-pop-jazz."  Although Zee's trio renders the songs with a standard piano-bass-drums lineup, they do not follow traditional bebop or swing playbooks. Genres are playfully swapped and adapted, time signatures and lyric sequences are flipped and stretched.

Zee and Stookey believe even the lesser knows songs in the collection deserve the attention of modern listeners. "Noel told me that these were the songs of his Dad's time, and he'd like to bring them to new audiences," explains Zee. Most of the tunes were monster hits in their day for multiple artists.

Only one composition retains its original arrangement: Stookey's own "Whatsername," a bittersweet jazz ballad that was originally included on the PPM hit album, "Album 1700," along with some of the folk trio's most commercially successful singles. The Zee version swaps guitar for piano but otherwise follows the same path.

Although relatively unknown outside his native Maryland, Zee has paid the dues of a seasoned performer. He is a local legend in his longtime stomping ground of Fells Point, a Baltimore harborside entertainment district with roots in 1600s colonial America. Known as much for his onstage routines and jokes as for his renditions of songs from all eras, Zee has maintained a full performing schedule for decades, re-inventing and surviving an endless roundabout of pop music trends.

"What I love about David's approach to this music, and afterTIME in particular, is both his reverence and irreverance for these tunes," noted Stookey. "It was a pleasure working with someone who 'gets' the value of yesteryear's music, and it seemed sometimes that David had stepped out of a time machine, his take on the subject material at once so accurate and sensitive."

"I have always performed songs from different decades, but these arrangements would never have occurred to me without Noel's guiding hand," added Zee. "As he encouraged me to experiment and expand on proven melodies and lyrics, and I experienced his relentless musical work ethic and vast knowledge of many styles and time periods, I could see why Noel's older and newer music remains relevant and universal today."

Stookey discovered Zee through a contest for songs of social change sponsored by Stookey's Public Domain Foundation. Zee and then-wife Ashley Pound were the contest's first grand prize winners with their poignant song, "Children of Conflict," about the plight of ordinary kids growing up in war zones.

Although he is known throughout the world as folk singer on standards like "The Wedding Song" (his composition), "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and "Puff the Magic Dragon," Noel Paul Stookey has always been much more than that. After two decades as a populist minstrel in the tradition of Pete Seeger and the Kingston Trio, he began to stretch out in the 1980s into other genres, including jazz and rock. He established one of the world's first Christian rock bands, Bodyworks, a pioneer effort in the then-emerging contemporary worship genre.

This is not Stookey's first time in a producer role. He has produced several releases from the jazz / new age saxophonist Paul Winter, as well as an ongoing project called "Hugworks," a series of recordings for children featuring songwriter Jim Newton.

Like Zee and Stookey, the AfterTIME sidemen maintain eclectic resumes. Bassist Mike Burd has appeared regularly with folk icon David Mallett since 1981, as well as numerous Maine area bands covering blues to R&B to jazz. Drummer Josh Fournier plays everything from jazz kit to steel drums, and performs regularly with a funk-rock-gospel group called BeyondBlue.

October 2010
For immediate release
Contact: Joyce Hall    joyce.wirefox@gmail.com
David Zee Music  866.933.6784  www.davidzee.com

DAVID ANTHONY ZEE, EMERGING TALENT, DISCOVERED BY NOEL PAUL STOOKEY (PETER, PAUL & MARY)

Singing pianist's debut collection "AfterTIME" produced by Stookey and released on his record label


Maryland-based singer/pianist David Anthony Zee has released his debut album of "overlooked hits" from the jazz era, "AfterTIME,"  produced by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary. A product of Stookey's Neworld Multimedia label, the collection features updated versions of classics, some almost a century old.

Standards still high in popular memory, including "It Had to be You," "Baby Face," and "Undecided," join more obscure compositions originally recorded by mostly forgotten artists such as The Boswell Sisters and The Four Freshmen. Created by some of the American Century's most celebrated writers, the selections have been covered by multiple singers, vocal groups, and big bands.

"David brings not only his talent but his humor and a facile lightness of touch to this collection," noted Stookey. Zee added, "I have always performed songs from different decades, but these arrangements would never have occurred to me without Noel's guiding hand."

"AfterTIME" is available from Stookey's Neworld Multiedia online store, and will be available soon through the popular CD Baby site. More information is available on these sites:

www.davidanthonyzee.com
www.noelpaulstookey.com
www.neworldmultimedia.com

 

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