Caleb Collins

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

"CALEB COLLINS RE-INTRODUCING THE STANDARDS” ”

Breaking News:As the centennial of crooner Frank Sinatra’s birth approaches, a dashing young singing composer named Caleb Collins is anxious to keep the spirit of ol’ blue eyes alive by re-introducing the Jazz standards of Sinatra’s generation to Collins’ millennial one. The eleven-track Re-Introducing The Standards (Caleb Collins Music) album is a contemporary update of songs popularized by the likes of Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and other World War II era melody makers. It’s been four years in the making but is well worth the wait. Following in the recent footsteps of Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Bublé, Collins is charting his own unique path with these well-worn evergreens. “I’m kind of an old soul and sometimes I wish I was alive in that musical era,” he says. “Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era. Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are my go-to artists.”

Collins is an orchestrator, pianist and vocalist with a decade’s worth of acclaimed indie albums ranging from a singer-songwriter set and a quasi-classical project to a posh set of holiday songs. On his fifth full-length album, Re-Introducing The Standards, Collins re-imagines audio gems such as Fitzgerald’s “Paper Moon” and Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” with infusions of his Pentecostal-keyboarding roots and a bent for big orchestrations while remaining true to the originals. With a smooth tenor gliding over these selections like a bird in flight, Collins delivers these sonic tales with polished precision and an infectious New Age sensibility.

The inviting collection includes the moody “Autumn Leaves” that is further spooked by the haunting fiddle of violinist Pooquette, a fixture on New York’s Gypsy Jazz scene. It’s followed by a blissfully swinging rendition of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” - punctuated by an animated string arrangement - and the pointed “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” Collins says, “I wanted to do a mix of songs - not just `I love you, I love you, you’re amazing’ songs but something that included other aspects of love.” He duets with Alicia Olatuja, a frequent soloist with the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble, on a silky soul rendition of “Our Love Is Here To Stay.” J.P. Jofre, who has accompanied the New York City Ballet, brings an Americana flavor to his playing of the bandoneon, a popular accordion-like folk instrument in Argentina, on Collins’ earthy cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.”

Collins began recording Re-Introducing The Standards in San Diego in the fall of 2011 with drummer Cole Phillips. “Cole had a great groove,” Collins says. “We went in the studio and recorded 6-7 songs and I sat on those for a while.” The following year he relocated to the Big Apple to join the music staff at the Brooklyn Tabernacle church where a perk was getting to play and write music for the church’s six-time Grammy Award winning choir – a dream come true since he grew up loving the ensemble’s ornate orchestrations. He then started collaborating with the choir’s drummer Michael Archibald and bass player Michael Olatuja. “We recorded another 6-7 songs,” he recalls. “By then, I had some nice tracks to work with and I wasn’t planning to put any strings on them. I just wanted it to be really raw. Then, I said it has to be something I want to listen to over and over again. Strings are my signature, so I decided to put them on after all and give the songs a more polished finishing.”

In spite of his refined sound, Collins grew up in the rustic town of Twin Falls, Idaho. The second born of three boys, his father was a fertilizer salesman and his mother was once a nurse. “It was a good place to grow up,” Collins says. “A lot of cowboys, ranches and just very down to earth people, very religious.” The Collins clan virtually lived in their small Pentecostal church of about 250 members. “We were in church literally every day,” he chuckles. “We were at church at 6 AM for an hour-long prayer meeting every weekday morning. We had Sunday school, then my parents came back Sunday afternoon for choir practice and then they sang at a Sunday night service. Tuesday night was Bible study and Thursday night was prayer meeting. Friday night was youth night and Saturday morning was outreach where we’d go knock on doors and try to get people to come to church.”

By the time he hit high school, Collins had been bitten by the theater bug and performed in local productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” He and his classmate Alison Holman even wrote and staged a musical entitled “Freedom’s Song” while in high school. It was, however, Collins’ summer gig at the Moxie Java coffeehouse that set his trek to Re-Introducing The Standards. “We played a lot of Jazz overhead and I noticed how it created a happy environment for everyone who came in,” he recalls. “It made me feel happy. There was just a warmth about some of those old vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Hearing those jazz chords they played I said, `man, I’ve got to learn to play those chords.’”

Collins eventually learned to play those chords and wound up in Nashville as a songwriter for a variety of seasoned country artists such as Ty Herndon and Grammy Award nominated groups such as The Crabb Family and Karen Peck & New River. He also found time to produce his own indie Pop gospel albums such as Classic (2007) Christmas (2008) Dream (2009) and Live In Memphis (2011) but still longed to segue into Jazz without abandoning his church roots. “God is love and all who love are from God,” he says. “I do believe that most times, we experience God's love through other humans, and I believe that acknowledging those people in song honors the source of the love that has been displayed. I've tried to stay true to my gospel stylings in this Jazz project and stay consistent musically to my prior work, in an effort to maintain my current fan base, but also reach for new followers.”

Collins is sure to build upon his existing audience with Re-Introducing The Standards. “I’d love for this project to be something that is still selling 20 years from now,” he adds. “My goal is to make music that is not trendy. I want it to still be relevant down the road. That’s why I chose the instrumentation that I did: just a rhythm section, nice jazz chords and strings. That’s never going out of fashion. I want to be kind to my older self and still be able to listen to the music I created and enjoy it. These songs have stood the test of time and fifty-sixty years later, people still know them and enjoy them and there’s a niche market for it.”

CALEB COLLINS RE-INTRODUCING THE STANDARDS TRACK BY TRACK

AUTUMN LEAVES

Written in 1945 by composer Joseph Kosma and poet Jacques Prévert, this chanson was introduced as “Les Feuilles Mortes” when Yves Montand and Irene Joachim sang it in the 1946 film “Les Portes de la Nuit.” American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947 and Jo Stafford was the first of many American singers such as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to record it. Pianist Roger Williams’ instrumental version reached #1 on the Billboard Pop chart in 1955. “I love the beautiful melody of the song,” Collins explains of this dark interpretation that’s punctuated by the fiddling of Gypsy Jazz violinist Pooquette. “I have a special affinity towards songs in minor keys. I like to have a few songs on a project that are moody like that. It’s such a lonely, sorrowful song about gazing out of a window and seeing leaves falling while missing someone so completely.”

BLUE EYES CRYING IN THE RAIN

Country music legend Roy Acuff first recorded this rollicking ditty by Fred Rose in 1945. Although, others recorded it in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until Willie Nelson covered it in 1975 that it shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. “That song has special significance to me because of my friend Lorraine Walden,” Collins confides of the blue-eyed Cherokee woman who took him in when he first moved to Nashville. “She is a country songwriter and she’s sung on the Grand Ole Opry. She had had a stroke and I had no place to live so I helped her and she helped me. I remember her teaching me that song when I lived with her and every time I do that song I think of her and her blue eyes and how much she means to me. “

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE

This passionate Cole Porter melody was introduced by Big Band chanteuse Nan Wynn in the 1944 musical revue “Seven Lively Arts.” It’s been done by John Coltrane, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett among others. “I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing that song and there’s something very sweet but sorrowful about it,” Collins opines. “It’s expressing how much you love somebody and the pain you feel when you are separated from them.... I wanted to do a mix of songs - not just `I love you, I love you, you’re amazing’ songs but something that included other aspects of love. I find the chord progressions interesting and I really loved where my vocals landed in that particular key. There was a certain sweetness in the timbre and I knew it was a song I wanted to explore.”

IT HAD TO BE YOU

Bandleader Isham Jones and lyricist Gus Kahn, wrote this tune that was first waxed by Sam Lanin and his Orchestra for the Okeh label in 1924. Dozens of artists such as Dick Haymes & Helen Forrest and even actor John Travolta recorded it before Frank Sinatra finally did a version later in his career circa 1979. “I used to work on cruise ships and we played that song every cruise,” Collins laughs. “We did jazz sets in the atrium and of course everybody always knows that song. I love the Harry Connick Jr. version in `Harry Met Sally.’ His is such a brilliant arrangement. I don’t think my version comes close to that one but I wanted to give it a try. It’s a light, fun song.”

L-O-V-E

German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert is best known for writing Frank Sinatra’s 1966 #1 hit “Strangers in the Night.” He solicited the aid of lyricist Milt Gabler to create this song for Kaempfert’s 1964 “Blue Midnight” album. However, a year later, Nat King Cole put his velvety baritone on it and immortalized the song for posterity but Collins’ inspiration came from an unlikely source. “I heard an arrangement of that by Joss Stone,” he says. “Her’s had that same sort of beat to it and I was like, `Wow, I’ve never heard that song with that beat or with that tempo’ so I tried to do my own arrangement of that – a little gospelly a little groovy. One thing I like to do is take songs that every one knows or everyone has heard and put a little twist on it.”

OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY

The Gershwin brothers – George and Ira - wrote this enduring tune for the 1938 film “The Goldwyn Follies.” Collins first recorded it as a solo and then went back and re-recorded it with Alicia Olatuja for a smoky, smooth jazz creation. “That’s a song I feel like I’ve been playing since I was a teenager,” Collins says. “I remember hearing Ella Fitzgerald singing that on a CD I borrowed from the library in Idaho. There’s just something classic about that song I love. - the metaphors, I love the lyrics and I love that I got to include my friend, Alicia’s lovely voice. I love the groove on that song... I listened to this whole project riding on the New York subway over the last three years. When I looked on iTunes to see how many times I listened to each song, I’ve listened to them all at least a thousand times each. Each time I listen for little nuances or things that might make the song better and that’s why I went back and asked Alicia to do the song with me.”

PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN IM GONE

Composer Sam H. Stept and lyricist Sidney Clare published this kiss-off in 1930. Ethel Waters recorded her swinging version of it in 1931 for Columbia Records and is noted as one of the artists to help popularize the song which has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson and even as a duet between Harry Connick, Jr. and Carmen McRae. “This is not a love song,” Collins declares of this punchy rhythm. “The message is that ‘we’re splitting up and I respect you but don’t talk about me when I’m gone.’ My favorite version is by Ella Fitzgerald. The way she pronounces her words, how she communicates. Her music makes me happy every time I hear it.”

PAPER MOON

Harold Arlen composed the tune and E.Y. Harburg and Billy Rose collaborated on the lyrics. It was originally written for a Broadway play entitled “The Great Magoo.” Although, it was a Top Ten Pop hit for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1933, the song is also closely identified with The Nat King Cole Trio and Ella Fitzgerald & The Delta Rhythm Boys who recorded Top Ten versions that charted in the 1944-45 period. That’s just a fun quirky song with some circus-like lyrics,” Collins laughs. “I was looking for some more up-tempo things I had played through the years to add to the album...I wanted my personality and my joyful side to be on display in this project instead of the more serious side that was on my prior albums.”

THE NEARNESS OF YOU

This sensual classic was written by composer Hoagy Carmichael and lyricist Ned Washington. It first appeared in the 1938 film “Romance in the Dark.” The Glenn Miller Orchestra with Ray Eberle soloing garnered a Top 5 hit with it in 1940. Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and even Anne Lenox have recorded it as a ballad but Collins infuses it with a spicy tempo. “I think I first heard it when Norah Jones recorded it,” Collins recalls. “She did a slower version of it. I was kind of playing around with the melody with a drummer in San Diego and I said, ` give me an interesting beat,’ so he came up with this beat and we just went with it. It’s so different from any version of it that I’ve heard. The strings are fun, lilting and whimsical.”

THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT

This bright and dreamy tune won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the film “Swing Time” in 1936. Fred Astaire recorded that version but it went on to be re-worked by the likes of Perry Como, Doris Day and Collins’ two favorite artists – Sinatra and Fitzgerald. “I’ve always loved that song,” Collins says and his rendition is soft and airy as a comfortable foam pillow. “I didn’t really change much. It’s a straight ahead standard based on Sinatra and it really showcases my voice.”

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

Producer Bob Thiele and George David Weiss wrote this classic that was recorded by grave-voiced Louis Armstrong in 1967. It was written amid the civil rights movement as an antidote to the civil unrest and racism that was plaguing America at the time. It failed to hit in the states that year but it shot to #1 on the British Pop chart that year. It took two decades, but it eventually hit the Top Ten of the Adult Contemporary Airplay chart in the USA in 1988. Collins’ remake is faithful to the original but J.P. Jofre’s skillful playing of the Bandoneon, a popular instrument in Argentina similar to an accordion, adds a warm Americana texture to the track. “I love that song and it kind of puts things into perspective,” Collins says. “I have those days where I can be feeling like things are not going good and like, I’ve got it so bad and I’m feeling sorry for myself or lonely but whenever I hear that song, it pulls a switch in me like, `no, things are beautiful. Caleb, concentrate on the things that are beautiful.’ It reminds me of the happiness of childhood, the beauty of the world and it kind of refocuses you to be thankful for what you have and to see the good that surrounds you instead of focusing on the negative.”  

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Bill Carpenter
Capital Entertainment for Image Entertainment
Billcarpenter@capitalentertainment.com
202-506-5051


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