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    Michael Feinstein and the American Songbook

    I’ve been a fan of Feinstein for many years, so when I saw him featured on Sunday Morning on CBS recently, I was intrigued.

    He has always been a Gershwin fan, even working for Ira Gershwin in cataloging music versions of written music, but now is making a special effort to save archival written music that might otherwise be forgotten, which I think is wonderful in that it will open up a whole new audience to old tunes.

    As he put it, if no new songs were ever written, there is a huge catalog of American songs that haven’t been heard by most people.

    I was lucky enough to see him perform a few years ago with my mom when I was in Sarasota, Florida visiting her.

    He was at an indoor concert hall, the Van Wesel Performing Arts Center, solo on the stage with a Steinway grand piano and he had a great rapport with the audience, speaking directly to us as he explained the backgrounds of the various songs he sang.

    Feinstein is a fan of Sinatra, and recorded a retrospective of Sinatra-type of renditions recorded at the same studio where Sinatra used to record in California.

    He doesn’t really have the same style and voice quality as Sinatra, as Sinatra’s voice was deeper, but the pop-crooner is definitely easy listening.

    In going to his Web site, I see he will again be performing at the Van Wesel Performing Arts Center March 26 in Sarasota where I saw him some years ago. Just going to his Web site, you can hear samples of his music. It also shows he has been nominated for a Grammy in traditional pop vocal album category for his Sinatra Project.

    Speaking of Sinatra, when I was waitressing in New York City some years ago, one of the patrons there gave me some previously unreleased studio tapes of Sinatra. I still have them and every so often pull them out. They still stand up after all these years.

    Feinstein seems to have the same kind of connection with the audience that Sinatra did all those years ago. I wish I could say Feinstein also had the same smooth voice as Sinatra did, but I can’t go that far.

    Still, if you want to hear someone who does great ballads in the Sinatra tradition, Feinstein is the guy. Harry Connick Jr. also does Sinatra type songs, but seems to have concentrated more on acting of late.

    As I’m writing this to you, Herman went to a site to listen to some Connick holiday songs and I was struck by the resemblance to Sinatra’s voice and style, even more than Feinstein. Though Feinstein has a lock on his tributes to George Gershwin.

    So if you like pop songs in the Sinatra style, you’ve got some good choices out there.

    Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com