Cheryl Bentyne – Uptown Interview
The Making of ‘Let Me Off Uptown’
by Paula Edelstein
PE: How did the concept for the tribute to Anita O’Day CD titled ‘Let Me Off Uptown’ come to your attention?
Cheryl: My manager Bill Traut saw the possibilities of my singing Anita’s book. He and I have been friends for many years and he knows my voice better than I do!!! And the obvious title was her biggest hit! The choice for Jack Sheldon to “play” the Roy Eldridge role was Corey Allen’s. Jack is a legend in the L.A. band world as well as worldwide fame via The Merv Griffin Show and his haunting solo on the original recording of Â”The Shadow Of Your Smile.Â” I LOVE his playing and singing!!! He is truly an original. I was thrilled to have him join me on this classic song.
PE: With respect to the Great American Songbook, your work with the Manhattan Transfer features many songs from that genre, as did Anita O’Day’s when she sang with a band during her heyday. Is that where the comparisons stop in your opinion?
Cheryl: Well, first may I say Anita is alive and well and still out there singing!!! By comparisons do you mean my voice to hers?
PE: Yes and the choice of material.
Cheryl: I am drawn to great songs. If this is what you mean, I am greatly influenced by all the singers of that era, but also know what I sing best. They are called Great American songs for a reason and I still refer to the standards as the greatest songs ever written. If this seems nostalgic so be it…and yet…I was not born in this era!! Born too late I guess!!! Ha ha ha ha…
PE: What song selection criteria did you use for ‘Let Me Off Uptown’?
Cheryl: I began with Bill giving me endless songs to choose from and insisting on some that were required listening if I was to do Anita’s repertoire. I began by listening to 20 some recordings from her very early work through her bebop work. All of which was overwhelming!!! We chose what we all thought was representative of her early years, but I wanted to give a formal bow to her work as one of our truly great jazz singers. In doing so, a few of my choices were not based on her having the “hits” on them. But her influence on the particular interpretation.
PE: At one point during Anita O’Day’s career, she played the drums and on this CD you wrote the rhythm section arrangements based on O’Day’s original recordings. How difficult was this transcription?
Cheryl: Not difficult at all. My producer and husband Corey Allen has the ears and ability to easily transcribe her charts and is a big fan of Paul Smith. As well as his choosing our trio to play the songs! We have the most swinging band of all! Dave Tull on drums is spectacular as well as Kevin Axt on bass and Corey on piano. They truly formed the pocket and foundation for me to just swing over them! It was a blast! But, you are right, Anita’s entire basis as a singer I feel is her rhythmic concept! I learned so much from listening to her over and over. She gave me permission to dig deep and swing! That is what I was raised to do by my father!
PE: Cheryl, you attended Berklee College of Music when Bill Holman was teaching there and now you’re working with him and are accompanied by the great horn arrangements he’s written for this recording. How did the two of you hook for this session?
Cheryl: Actually this is a question for Corey. I did teach at Berklee for a couple years, but Corey was the one who was so influenced by Bill. I was just the lucky so and so who got to sing with his band and groove inside his arrangements!
PE: Another big band master, Jack Sheldon makes an appearance here – in a duet with you on ‘Let Me Off Uptown’ and on Conjunction Junction. What, if anything did you learn from Jack during this session that you can apply to your future gigs as a leader or with The Manhattan Transfer?
Cheryl: He is the best! As I said earlier! What a fun guy. I guess by watching him I learned to just relax and let the song carry me!!! I love him.
PE: If you had to choose between a solo career and remaining with the Manhattan Transfer, where would your fans find your next recording?
Cheryl: Well, I am lucky enough to do both…for now. I am already planning my next solo project. My husband is a phenomenal string arranger. This is his first love, so we are talking about a string project. That’s all I can say for now…don’t know what the Transfer is planning.
PE: That’s cool. Being lucky is sometimes the most important aspect of a careerÂ…but for you, you’re lucky, talented and very cool! Where can your fans find your tour and concert information and are there plans in the works for a tour in support of ‘Let Me Off Uptown’?
Cheryl: Telarc has a great site; I also have a web site as well as the Transfer’s. WE are in the process of planning gigs for ‘Let Me Off Uptown’, between the Transfer gigs. Thanks for asking and either Cherylbentyne.com/ Telarc.com or The Manhattantransfer.org can help.
PE: FABULOUS! Thanks so much and once again, CONGRATS on ‘Let Me Off Uptown’. It’s HOT! Keep in touch with Cheryl at www.telarc.com www.cherylbentyne.com or www.manhattantransfer.org