Fynsworth Alley: Terry Trotter

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.


Terry Trotter

Terry Trotter

TERRY TROTTER is one of Fynsworth Alley’s most prolific recording artists, mostly as the arranger and pianist of The Trotter Trio, the jazz combo famous for its Sondheim in Jazz series, which includes Passion, Sweeney Todd, Company, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, A Little Night Music, and Follies. Most recently, the trio ventured off-Broadway for their jazz rendering of The Fantasticks.

DL: Let’s start talking about how you began playing piano.

TT: My mom is a wonderful classical pianist, so when I was about four years old I started messing around with the piano to see if I had some talent. I started studying when I was four. My mom didn’t teach me, but she sat with me every day. I had to practice every day from the time I was four until I left high school. Of course, by the time I was thirteen, I wanted to practice, you couldn’t get me away from the piano. Before that, I had to do a certain amount in the morning and a certain amount in the night – I practiced a lot, every day including Christmas and New Year’s. I had a one-week vacation every year where I couldn’t physically get to a piano, but the rest of the year, I had to practice or suffer the consequences.

DL: How did you move into the jazz world?

TT: When I was about twelve, my mom could see that my interest was not as strong as it had been. I heard some jazz music, and she decided to let me go away from the classical for a while. I got really interested in the jazz music, but in classical music also. I studied jazz for about two years and then went back to classical and studied for another ten years with great teachers including Victor Aller, Joseph Levine, and Leonid Hambro who used to travel with Victor Borge as his second pianist. He was also the orchestra pianist for the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein.
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Fynsworth Alley: Guy Haines

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

The enigmatic Guy Haines has finally burst forth from simply being one of our repertory singers, finally releasing his very own solo album, Haines His Way. For more information on Guy’s history and background, you can read this interview from last June.

Guy HainesDL: How did you first meet Bruce Kimmel?

GH: Well, let’s see… How does anyone first meet Bruce Kimmel? He just sort of shows up and insinuates himself into your life and then he never leaves. We’ve been friends for as long as I can remember, ever since we were young boys. We used to sing show tunes together and do performances for our parents. One of our great successes was the two of us doing the entire “Dance At The Gym” from West Side Story. Amazing, really, as neither one of us can dance a whit.

DL: Bruce Kimmel has mentioned that your first appearance on one of his albums [Unsung Musicals] was a happy turn of fate involving another singer’s inability to record. How did Bruce approach you for the album? Did you have any time to learn the song? Do you have any idea why he asked you to step in rather than someone with Broadway credits?

GH: Well, that is an interesting story. I guess the original singer of “Her Laughter In My Life” was not feeling well during the sessions and was having vocal problems. I know that Bruce tried to put together a usable vocal out of the ten takes he did, but it just wasn’t working. I happened to be visiting the studio when all this was happening and finally, in desperation, he turned to me and asked me if I’d do a new vocal. Since the song only has a range of about five or six notes I felt comfortable doing it and besides I’d been hearing the thing for three hours in a row and it was already in my head. I’m sure he would have preferred someone with Broadway credits, but frankly I was the only game in town. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging QueensI’m sure that many of the people involved in last night’s benefit performance of Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens looked on the event as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not me. I hope this is but the first of many future projects that I’ll be able to take part in that bring together so many talents for the purpose of making a statement about the values of our community, and to benefit those in need of some extra help. Clearly, this was not your run-of-the-mill benefit performance. I’m willing to bet that almost everyone involved in the show has been touched in some way by the AIDS epidemic, but the real point of coalescence for me was that our performance not only raised money for AIDS-related care, but the content of the performance itself paid tribute to those who have gone, those who survive, and those who support. Powerful stuff. During the dress rehearsal, when I heard most of the monologues for the first time, I was brought to tears countless times… the elderly lady who contracted HIV through a transfusion and learns to overcome her own prejudice to die with grace alongside a drag queen… the couple whose families are incredibly supportive until the first partner dies… the street punk drug user who finds an unlikely friend in a gay social worker… and on and on. The songs have never sounded better, surely, but I hope the final album product will be able to convey at least a taste of the scope of this work – gay, straight, bisexual, nonsexual, black, white, Latino, old, young, and unborn AIDS deaths.  Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Debbie Gravitte

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Debbie GravitteDebbie Gravitte’s association with Bruce Kimmel extends back twenty-five years to The First Nudie Musical, in which Debbie’s voice is heard (although she’s never seen) on several of the songs. Since then, Debbie has gone on to become a Tony-Award-winning Broadway star, appearing in They’re Playing Our Song, Zorba, Blues in the Night, Perfectly Frank, Ain’t Broadway Grand and, of course, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, for which she won her Tony. Debbie is also a star of the concert stage, having appeared in the Encores productions of Tenderloin and The Boys From Syracuse, as well as concert versions of shows, including Louisiana Purchase and Billion Dollar Baby in other venues. She has toured extensively with her cabaret act, and is currently appearing with Stephen Schwartz in an evening of his songs. She has appeared on many Fynsworth Alley albums, including two of her own: The Alan Menken Album and The MGM Album. You can visit her on the web at DebbieGravitte.com.

DL: Let’s start with your start. How did you get started in show business?

DG: Oh, it’s going to be one of those kinds of interviews? Well, I always loved to sing, and I was always loud. I started doing shows in school. The musical theatre department at my high school had been not happening, and for some reason the year I started high school, they started it again. But my first big thing really was this: When I was a teenager, I auditioned for the LA Civic Light Opera. They were doing Annie Get Your Gun starring Debbie Reynolds, directed by Gower Champion. It was Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell and Gavin MacCleod. I did that, and Gower Champion loved me! He wrote me a part, and we went on tour for a month. They wanted to bring it to New York, so I would have made my Broadway debut in that, but Debbie Reynolds was all flipped out because she had just opened at the Minskoff or something, or she was doing her act, and she bombed in New York, so she didn’t want to go back to the city.

That was great, though – the first director I professionally worked with was Gower Champion! One of the greatest! I did that, and in the process of that, I met a man named Tony Stevens, who was the co-choreographer. And the music director was a man named Jack Lee. And they said to me, “Debbie, we’re doing a show in New York, why don’t you come and audition (hint, hint).” I didn’t know what they were talking about, of course, but they meant if I came to New York I would get the show. So of course I flew to New York, I auditioned for the show, and I got it – it was a show called Spotlight. I’m trying to think if there was anything really incredible about it. No. It starred Gene Barry and I understudied the lead. It would be one of two times I understudied in my career – the other time was They’re Playing Our Song. Anyway, the show bombed in Washington, DC. I came back to LA, actually, because I’m born and raised in Los Angeles – for those readers out there who don’t know that, who think I’m a New Yorker because LA has spurned me. Anyway, I came back to LA, and then through James Mitchell, who also worked on Annie Get Your Gun, I got set up with an agent in New York who ended up signing me. A man named Bruce Aven, who was really one of the great agents. When I walked in his office, he said, “I’m going to take you on, but it’s going to take a while for your talents.” He knew I was never an ingénue, which is why I got to be a big slutty girl in The First Nudie Musical. And to answer the question of why I wasn’t actually in the movie [Debbie is heard but not seen], I was probably too young and not pretty enough. At the time.
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