New American Songbook Project


Friday, May 13, 6 pm at Copperfield’s Books, Novato | Free event! |

The New American Songbook Project features daring arrangements and re-constructions of jazz, pop, and folk standards made famous by vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Astrud Gilberto, Graham Nash, Mick Jagger, and Cat Stevens. The performers will be vocalist Rocio Guitard; Michael Smolens, pianist and arranger; Alex Murzyn, sax; Fred Randolph, bass; and Greg Wyser-Pratte, drums.

The band has developed near telepathic communication between players, allowing for unpredictable excursions and vivid storytelling by their vocalist. Each tune drawing its own color as the sax (soprano/alto/tenor), bass (acoustic/fretless & fretted electric), and keyboard (piano/electric piano) are heard in a myriad of different combinations. Rarely do audiences experience the bass, drums, and voice as equally featured soloists. And still rarer to hear a vocalist improvise lyrics on-the-spot, doubling blistering saxophone lines, and singing floating bi-tonal melodies. The band’s few original songs appear fully disguised as impostors from another era.

Says Smolens, “The idea behind this group is to see how far I can take well-known jazz, pop, and traditional folk songs from their original source while keeping them vibrant and emotionally relevant to listeners. It’s my only group that doesn’t feature my writing exclusively, but each song becomes in a sense a ‘song within a song’. By the time they’ve heard “Girl With The Whole Step” (a complete re-telling of ‘Girl From Ipanema’ clothed as a study in whole-steps) or Mick Jagger’s “Satisfaction” (skating along in three different grooves), they’ve taken quite a ride. When people hear what we do to songs that they are very familiar with, they are universally excited and really trust us.”


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