Jazz singer adds pop and other genres to his scat

Jazz singer adds pop and other genres to his scat

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Jazz singer Andrew Suvalsky swings more than one way.

(No, not like that. We’re talking about music here.)

The openly gay singer may revere traditions of jazz but he is by no means a slave to it, as much regarded for his forays into classic-pop music as he is for his jazz works, including recordings such as 2006’s “Vintage Pop and the Jazz Side” and 2008’s “A World that Swings.”

“It’s fun for me and I think that my audience has come to expect it or look for it,” Suvalsky said of his repertoire. “It’s my calling card. You’ll come to a show of mine and I’m not going to necessarily be singing to a bunch of hardcore jazz aficionados. I’m singing to people who really like songs, music and good lyrics. I like to mix things up. I figure that’s what I can give that’s unique from the next person. I’ll take you on a ride musically by doing that.”

The 40-year-old Milwaukee-born musician said his appreciation for a variety of musical styles began at an early age.

“My very first musical memories were 1970s music,” he said. “One of my older sisters was really into popular music so through her I would always hear — and inherited a love for — a lot of the great singer-songwriters from that era: everyone from Carole King and Stevie Wonder to James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Also I liked some of the flashier 1970s groups like The Fifth Dimension. I generally like music a lot. If I can sing along to it, I consider that an influence.”

It wasn’t long before Suvalsky became enamored with the works of some of the great jazz voices.

“As I got older, I really learned about the American songbook and older singers that have endured,” he said. “I would put Ella Fitzgerald at the top of my list as an influence, just because she mastered how to make the most of a song and find pretty much any angle you could eek out of a song. I hear a lot of things in her delivery that I wish I could do. That’s really inspiring to me. I listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra but I don’t like to imitate him because that is clichéd. I just like his honesty and how he approaches songs. He’s easy to listen to.”

Suvalsky began his musical career as part of the Jackie Allen Jazz improvisational group in Chicago before graduating to regular performances at some of the city’s best jazz venues. He moved to New York City in 1998 and went on to produce and star in his one-man show, “All I Want,” followed by two other original shows, “My American Songbook” and “Closer to My Own Age.”

Suvalsky definitely pushes at the boundaries of the genre with his pop flirtations and said he doesn’t mind terribly if jazz purists find fault with that.

“I’m more about the music,” he said. “I really swing hard. I scat and do a lot of things that some jazz singers don’t do anymore. I don’t mind if anyone critiques me. At least they’re paying attention and listening.”

When it comes to the visibility of gay musicians in the world of jazz, Suvalsky said he knows of only a few.

“I know some,” he said. “I’ve never taken any pains to celebrate or hide [my sexuality]. Certain lyrics I sing, I don’t change them if it’s to a man or to a woman. I just stay true to the lyrics of the song as they were written. I’d kind of like to think, in a very healthy way, it’s a non-issue. If somebody finds it interesting that I’m a jazz singer who is gay, that’s fine too because, as an entertainer, I’m a big believer that if you’re true to yourself, any angle you have that is of interest to somebody is worth exploring.”

Suvalsky will perform at 8:30 p.m. March 21 at Harlans Cabaret, 6426 Lower York Road, New Hope. For more information, visit www.andrewsuvalsky.com or call (215) 862-5225.

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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