Tales from the Jazz Side with Michael Franks, episode #1

This month’s Tales will be coming from legendary singer-songwriter Michael Franks.

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Although he is often referred to as a smooth jazz singer-songwriter, I find that description to not be altogether accurate. I consider him to be a jazz evolutionary singer songwriter, whose music covers all the subtle colors and diversity that writing music is all about today. His music is completely accessible to all genres, which is demonstrated by the all the different artists who have recorded his songs. He’s even been sampled by hip-hop artists. Those of you who think that he should be summed up and comfortably placed in the “smooth” jazz category are perhaps not the officiandos you claim yourself to be. I know them’s are fighting words, so be it. I will not go into what I think jazz is and what I think jazz is not. I don’t need to, because I live it each day of my life. It is my life experience.

If you surf the web, you will find endless information about Michael. This bio was taken from wikipedia.

About Michael Franks

Michael Franks (born September 18, 1944 in La Jolla, California) is a jazz singer and songwriter from the United States. He has recorded with a variety of well-known artists, such as Patti Austin, Brenda Russell, Art Garfunkel, David Sanborn and Peggy Lee. His songs have been recorded by Lyle Lovett, The Manhattan Transfer, Patti Labelle, Carmen McRae, Diana Krall, Shirley Bassey, Ringo Starr, Natalie Cole and The Carpenters.

Franks grew up in southern California with his father Gerald, his mother Betty and two younger sisters. Although no one in his family played music, his parents loved swing music and his early influences included Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer. At age 14 Franks bought his first guitar, a Japanese Marco Polo for $29.95 with six private lessons included – the only music education that he received.

At University High in San Diego, Franks discovered the poetry of Theodore Roethke with his off-rhymes and hidden meter. In high school, he began singing folk-rock, accompanying himself on guitar. Studying English at UCLA Michael discovered Dave Brubeck, Patti Page, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Miles Davis. He never studied music in college or later,[2] but earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA in comparative literature in 1966 and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1968. He had a teaching assistantship in a Ph.D. program in American literature at the University of Montreal before returning to teach part-time at UCLA.

During this time Franks started writing songs, starting with the antiwar musical Anthems in E-flat starring Mark Hamill. He also composed music for the films Count Your Bullets, Cockfighter, and Zandy’s Bride, starring Liv Ullmann and Gene Hackman. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee recorded three of his songs, including “White Boy Lost in the Blues” on their album Sonny & Brownie. Franks played guitar, banjo and mandolin on the album and joined them in touring. In 1973, he recorded an eponymous album, later reissued as Previously Unavailable, which included the minor hit “Can’t Seem to Shake This Rock ‘n Roll”.

In 1975 Franks released his second album The Art of Tea, beginning a long relationship with Warner Brothers Music. The Art of Tea featured Joe Sample, Larry Carlton and Wilton Felder of The Crusaders and included the hit song “Popsicle Toes”. His third album, Sleeping Gypsy (1977), which includes the song “The Lady Wants to Know”, was partially recorded in Brazil. Around this time, percussionist Ray Armando gave Franks a cabasa, which became a signature instrument for him to play on stage when he was not playing guitar. Burchfield Nines (1978), which includes the song “When the Cookie Jar Is Empty”, reflects his move to New York City and features more of an East Coast sound. Since then, Franks has recorded more than 15 albums.

His best known works include “When I Give My Love to You”, “Popsicle Toes”, “Monkey See, Monkey Do”, “Tiger in the Rain”, “Rainy Night in Tokyo”, and “Tell Me All About It”. His biggest hit came in 1983 with “When Sly Calls (Don’t Touch That Phone)” from the album Passionfruit. Radio hits include “Your Secret’s Safe With Me” from 1985’s Skin Dive, and “Island Life” from 1987’s The Camera Never Lies.

Michael has an official website www.michaelfranks.com. He also has a Facebook fan page.

In this months podcast Michael will talk about his current projects. And we will be delving into the deep water of what he thinks is scary. In the final segment that we will ask Mr. Franks the question, what was one of his most scariest live performance moments. You may be surprised by what you hear. So join us for this ear tingling episode from Tales from the Jazz Side.

Listening party section:

Check out Michael’s latest CD Time Together (click on image to listen to samples)

 

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