The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #15 – Melora Hardin


Melora Hardin is an actor, singer and director known to many for playing the character “Jan Levinson” on the hit sitcom “The Office,” but her artistic experience is expansive! She’s graced the television and film screen as well as the stage. Acting, dancing and directing are just a few of her talents. Then, there’s her musical side. A singer-songwriter, she’s a concert performer and a recording artist  with 3 albums to her credit. It’s an interview with depth yet not an ounce of pretension. Listen and find out why Melora Hardin is beloved by so many audiences.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #11 – Renee Olstead

Hey. It’s Me. A great singer cannot be limited to a singular style, like jazz or country. Singer, recording artist and actress Renee Olstead is an example of this. Known by many for nostalgic interpretations of American Songbook standards, the Texas-born Olstead is exploring the emotional sounds of country music. Her latest single “Help Me Make It Through the Night” is generating considerable excitement on the internet.

The thing that is intriguing about Renee Olstead is how versatile she is. You could imagine her fitting in effortlessly on the set of a movie in LA, behind the microphone at a jazz club or a smoky Honky-tonk. Well, we’re just glad she thought she’d fit in here on The Paul Leslie Hour.

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David Sanborn: Saxophonist

DAVID SANBORN is a man who loves music.  As a composer, performer on his chosen instrument, the saxophone or as a recording artist with 24 album releases, the man has fans around the world.  Recognition?  He’s received six Grammy Awards, has had 8 Gold albums and 1 Platinum album.  He’s toured with artists as diverse as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Stevie Wonder.  As a session artists, he’s appeared on the albums of everyone from James Taylor to Billy Joel.

In this interview, Paul caught up with David Sanborn backstage to have a talk about his musical roots.

Brigitte Zarie: Singer-Songwriter

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The corporate jet; a smooth, classy, sophisticated ride to the perfect finish. How nice that would be. If you possess a millionaire’s taste, but lack the assets perhaps you will prefer a smooth, classy, sophisticated ride on the vocal wings of Brigitte Zarie. The timeless style of her sound is evocative of the classic jazz era, but is blessedly placed in our day, with a flawless fit. Brigitte positively purrs her own jazz anthems with a certain authority and power that escapes simple description. Her writing is on par with those wonderful timeless tones; honest, charming and memorable. We wouldn’t have expected anything else from greatness. So strap into your seats for a talk with Brigitte Zarie as she takes us on a singer-songwriter’s flight through memories, notions and conversation non-stop to great enjoyment.

Introduction by Daniel Buckner

Billy Vera: Singer, Songwriter, Music Historian, Actor

Singer and songwriter BILLY VERA is interviewed for the radio by Paul Leslie. His song “At This Moment” was a #1 hit song, most recently  recorded by Michael Buble.  Billy Vera has been a singer-songwriter of a #1 hit record as well as an actor, music historian and voice-over artist.  His latest album “Billy Vera Big Band Jazz” pays tribute to great black Amerian songwriters from the 1920s-1940s and was recorded at Capitol Records Studio A.  The album features a duet with singer Tamela D’Amico.

 

Sophie Lellouche: Filmmaker

For some people, fate is kind, but it’s never fate alone that creates lasting art.  For Sophie Lellouche, her great talent in writing a great script and her optimism resulted in her first film, Paris-Manhattan. How many filmmakers can say that there very first film featured great French actors like Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel…?Furthermore, Sophie Lellouche’s script caught the eye of a legend in film, Woody Allen.  Woody Allen agreed to appear in the filmmaker’s debut picture!  Paris-Manhattan is a French film with English subtitles.  It is a pleasure to meet the woman behind the film.

 

Cheryl D. Barnes: Singer

Jazz singer Cheryl D. Barnes sat down to talk with Paul about her album “Listen to This.”  She grew up singing, hearing the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.  She started with classical voice training at age nine before turning her attention to jazz.

Cheryl D. Barnes released a debut studio album was entitled “Cheryl,” and she also released a live album with the Phillip Cabasso Orchestra entitled “Live at the Baked Potato.”  With her latest album “Listen to This,” those who listen will be in for a real treat!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure we introduce you to this woman, Cheryl Barnes. Thank you for joining us.

Well, thank you for inviting me.

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?
My musical life – my whole life was wonderful – and my musical life was really pretty fantastic because I was always surrounded by every kind of music that was playing on the radio and on records and everything. My father and mother exposed us to jazz, to classical, to polka music, to rock and roll – sort of. My father sort of forbade that in our house but we managed to listen to it anyway. So the musical life, it started from day one. Even at the smallest age, I remember waking up in the middle of the night and hearing beautiful music, tunes playing on the radio and it was like breathing and all, so it was great. And as I was in elementary school, coming along, starting to sing in little groups and that sort of thing, so it was a good start. A good launching into a life of music.

Who were the singers that you enjoyed the absolute most?

Well, of course, the you know all the traditional, wonderful greats. Um, of course, there’s Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn and Peggy Lee and just, you know, all the greats of that time. And then, coming forward, I’ve always – I have been influenced, mostly spiritually and emotionally, by a wonderful singer named Carmen Lundy because of her innovation and her beautiful talent, and the freedom that she shared in her music in the way that she – she’s a wonderful instrumentalist as well – in the way that she plays and sings. And a lot of the newer young people that singing now I’ve really been enjoying as well. And I’ve been influenced greatly by many instrumentalist, especially during the years that I was starting to sing jazz. You know, like Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard, and a lot of horn players of the time and other players. It’s just, uh, it was like taking in, like breathing and taking in from the atmosphere all these great musical influences from many areas. And classical music as well, not just in jazz. I started out as a rock and roll singer (laughs) in fact, in Great Falls, Montana, so I enjoyed that part of it, too.

You have had the opportunity to work with a lot of great artists. Can you tell me who you have been the most in awe of?

Among those that I had the pleasure of working with and relating to in conversation and all, Della Reese was – I had a television show along with a gentleman named Bobby Jackson invited me to co-host a TV show with him in Denver. And we used to feature the visiting wonderful artists who came through town performing at the various clubs. And anyway, Della Reese was on one of those shows. And I also sang as the opening act at the club so we had an opportunity to know each other. And I learned so much from her as a performer and as a singer, but also as an entertainer. She influenced me tremendously in that way. And she was very generous. That stayed with me, and has stayed with me through my life and my career. And then there were other people that I worked with. I met Linda Hopkins and have gotten to know her somewhat. And she’s an incredible human being and she’s still going strong. And she just has such a legacy to share, such a history of her life, and a wonderful story of her life. And it certainly influenced me just to be the true – savor everything because then that sort of – not ‘sort of’, it does influence me. It helps me to just be open in my music and free to share. You know, just to go to the depths and throw it out there on the table – this is it! And there have been some wonderful artists who influenced me in that way and have been very helpful to me.

Tell us about the making of this latest album, Listen to This. What made you want to create this album?

Well, this came from – I hadn’t recorded in a number of years, and it came from a desire to make, you know, just make a record of my work as I am now in these last few years, because it took us five years to finish this project. I wanted to – I told my husband, I said – who is a keyboardist and pianist, he’s also a physician, a medical doctor – and I told Phil, I said ‘You know, I really would like to make a CD.’ I really didn’t have any particular idea about what would happen with it afterward or anything but I just wanted to record this. And what started as ‘Oh, OK. Well, that’ll be great. Let’s do that. We’ll get our wonderful musician friends …’ I live in L.A. so I have a wealth of the greatest musicians, some of the greats from all over the world who are our friends and musical associates, you know, who are willing and happy to participate. And we started out with ‘Well, we’ll just pick some nice tunes and go from there.’ And this thing evolved because the gentleman that we hired to produce the CD is a gentleman named Rahn Coleman. And Rahn is just – his vision, he loves my voice and he came up with ideas about how, where we could – a direction to go in to be as authentic as possible. For me to be as authentic, artistically, as possible and to – I use the word ‘free’ because that’s how I feel about my singing for myself – and so that it developed, it started out as a desire to make some music just to have as a record of my life and my musical life at this time. and it just, it really did evolve. We could have stopped recording and put this out three years ago and it would have been a really nice CD. It would’ve been great. It would’ve been very – certainly comparable to anything else, if not better, that’s out there but, boy, we just kept artistically coming up with ‘OK, let’s tweak this and that.’ And I guess you can do that in art, in many things anyway, you could continue to keep changing and changing and finding some area to make it better or whatever but, after a while (laughs), you have to finally say ‘OK, it’s done.’ and we did. And it wasn’t that we threw our hands up and said ‘All right. Enough is enough!’ We – it was done and we evolved through the process. And we’re very, I’m very happy with the results because it is – it’s me and it does recognize exactly many, many facets of my being and it manifests itself musically.

Well, the title track, Listen to This – tell us about that song. It’s a very interesting song.

This song started out – my husband wrote this song, Phil Cabasso – and he wrote the song originally as an instrumental called Blues in C Sort Of. And so, we started doing that on some of our gigs and I would just sing, you know, just scat along with it and sing the line but with no lyrics. And I guess that influenced him, or inspired him, to write lyrics to the song. And I didn’t know he was doing this. And then when he came up with the lyrics I was just flabbergasted because I said ‘How do you know about this sort of thing?’ (laughs) because it’s sort of like the story of the girls – you know, you go out, girls night out and you go to the bar. And these are single girls. And I remember these days for myself. You go, you know, to have a drink and to dance, and just have a nice time and not really looking for anything. And then there are these kind of – there are a few guys around in the bar that are the losers. And so you try to don’t make eye contact, try not to, you know, hook up with these guys because this could be a nightmare. And it’s just so fun. I love the song because it’s a lot of fun. And the people who’ve heard it, a number of people who’ve heard it, have said how they can truly relate to it and we just kind of laugh. And I’m sure that it’s probably the other way for men, too. You know, they’re the people that you just kind of don’t want to glom onto, or don’t want to have glom onto you when you’re just sort of out trying to have a good time. So it came out, it came about as kind of a lark and it developed into what it is now. We made it into a big band arrangement.

Our special guest is Cheryl Barnes. We’re talking about her latest album, Listen to This. What about the song Afternoon in Harlem?

I love that song. That song was written by a very good friend of mine, a very wonderful songwriter named Mark Winkler and his partner, Marilyn Harris – uh, writing partner. This song is just so evocative to me. Um, I grew up in an atmosphere of very elegant women in my family – elegant men and women – but the women in my family, as I think of my grandmother and her sister and my mother and my aunt – everybody. They were all so just suave and lovely elegant women, and gracious and graceful. And this song reminded me of them. And then it reminded me, also, of a couple of singers whom I have had the privilege of knowing, one of whom I mentioned, Linda Hopkins. And this song makes me think of her because she’s had such an incredible musical history. And so then this song talks about the life of this woman who’s been a singer, and who’s had fame and respect and renown, and describes her home and her whole beautiful life. So, and so for this younger artist to visit with this older artist on that afternoon in Harlem, and it really touched me. When I first heard the song, I thought ‘Oh boy. This is, this is real!’ (Laughs) So that’s – when Mark presented that song to me I was very, very pleased and delighted and immediately related to it.

What is the best thing about being Cheryl Barnes?

Ohhh (laughs). Oh, that’s a pretty good question. My goodness. I like myself and the best thing about me being me is that I think I enjoy my life. I enjoy my life. I’m a very, very fortunate person in that I’m able to – I look at things mostly from the bright side and seriously from the comedic side or the humor, the side of humor even in, you know, in situations where, you know, things are not so bright and cheery. And, uh, and I think that I am a survivor so, because of that, of those kinds of strengths and I just – wow! You’ve blown me away with that question (laughs)! It kind of tickles me. I like that. I’ll have to think about that some more (laughs). That was something that a psychiatrist or somebody should have asked (laughs).

Well, this next question is kind of open-ended. For anyone who listens to this broadcast, what do you want to say to the people who are listening in?

I hope that the music that I make has a positive effect. All songs are not going to appeal to all people but that there’s something here that truly touches you in some way or another, because that is important to me. To – when I sing that I am, that I am delivering and portraying the truth of myself. And it took me many – I used to always think that when I would be singing that it should be perfect, every note should be right on and be produced in the most magnificent way and so forth. And I still think that except I also know that sometimes worrying about the technical production loses the true depth and truth in emotion of what it is that I feel. And I think that it’s very important – I want you to get me. And so I hope that the listener gets what this singer is trying to convey, which is the odyssey of myself through my music.

OK. Here’s another one of those questions. My last question. Who is Cheryl Barnes?

Who am I? I am a very happy, very grateful woman. I am an artist. And I am proud to say that I am an artist. And I am privileged tobe able to share the art that I have. I didn’t start out that way, thinking about – it just was sort of normal. I sing. This is what I do and I didn’t really think much about what affect it had on others. But I am a person who wants to – I’m not trying to save the world or anything like that but I am someone who wants to share authenticity and hope that that will have some positive effect for whomever it reaches.

Well, that’s a great answer. I really appreciate you doing this interview.

Well, thank you very much. Wow – I’m going to write these questions down just for my own (laughs), my own therapy sessions. They’re pretty cool and I, I’m – whatever. I’m answering the questions as honestly as I can so it’s just – that’s really great (laughs). I will never, ever forget you, Paul, because I’m going to – you have really thrown a, not a challenge but, you know, very thought-provoking. Thank you. I appreciate that (laughs).

Thank you very much. You have a good one.

Well, thank you so much and Happy New Year. I hope to see you some time.

Happy New Year to you. Maybe you’ll make it up to Atlanta sometime.

Yeah, I’d love to. I’ve never been there, actually, so that might be – that will definitely be a destination.

I think Atlanta would love you.

Well, thank you. Well, if I’m there, we’ll certainly see each other. That’s for sure.

OK. Thanks again.

All right. Thank you. Bye-bye and have a great day.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA.

Lee Lessack: Singer, Recording Artist

Our special guest is an MAC and Bistro award winning recording artist. Lee Lessack has released his seventh CD, “Chanteur” a celebration of the songs from the French Songbook. Lee Lessack sings the songs on “Chanteur” in both English and French, taking you the listeners from the streets of Paris to the Broadway stage. BILLBOARD magazine called “Chanteur” : “Cabaret Romanticism of a higher order.” Lee Lessack hails from Philadelphia and attended the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts. In 1996, he founded the record label “LML Music,” the home of many vocal recording artists and performers.

Diane Schuur: Singer

Jazz legend Diane Schuur has released her new album “The Gathering,” on Vanguard Records. Although Diane Schuur is one of jazz’s leading singers, “The Gathering” is a collection of country songs mostly written during the 1960s. Produced by Steve Buckingham, the album features Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Larry Carlton, Mark Knopfler, and Kirk Whalum. Diane Schuur or “Deedles” as she is called by fans and friends alike, has a career spanning almost 30 years. She’s collaborated with the likes of jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Caribbean Jazz Project, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Ray Charles, and bluesman B. B. King. She is a two time Grammy award-winner

Larry Carlton: Guitarist

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LARRY CARLTON is without a doubt one of the absolute greatest guitarists on planet earth.  If you think this is an exaggeration, maybe you have never seen him in concert.  This interview with Mr. Carlton was recorded prior to one of his concerts in Atlanta, Georgia.  He was performing a pair of shows on the same night at the Sambuca restaurant in Buckhead.

The resulting conversation became one of the interviews which received the most feedback.  This is a testament to Larry Carlton’s incredible following around the world.

We’d like to welcome the legendary Larry Carlton. We’re here at the wonderful Sambucca restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Carlton, thank you so much for making the time to talk to us today.

My pleasure. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Atlanta so, uh, good to be back.

Well, welcome back. You started the guitar from a very early age, at six years old, and I was wondering, from the very beginning did you know that being a guitarist and a musician was God’s plan for you?

Well, I don’t think anybody knows that for certain at six years old (laughs) but, uh, the, uh, path that I took through life kept reinforcing the fact that I was a guitar player and a musician. I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve never had any other kind of job or work. My whole life has been making music.

You obviously loved music from a very young age. Was there any guitarist in particular that made you want to pick up the instrument?
Uh, at six years old there was an acoustic guitar just laying around my grandmother’s house and, uh, I was told by my parents I was just fascinated with the guitar but, obviously, quite small to hold it. So that was the, uh, the input from my mom. She said ‘When you’re big enough to hold a guitar, then you can start taking guitar lessons.’ So once I was about six, six-and-a-half years, I could hold the guitar, physically, and I started taking guitar lessons. So it wasn’t really a player at that point, it was just being around the instrument.

So how did you get involved in recording session work?

Because I started playing so young, I was a pretty good guitar player by the time I was 15, 16 years old so I was playing in clubs – supper clubs, talent shows, jam sessions – all around Southern California area and the word started to spread is what happened. People started talking about this young guitar player from Torrance, California and from there, you start meeting other musicians, and those musicians have their network of things going on. And pretty soon, I was invited to play on demo sessions and from there, I became the arranger of the demo sessions and then, finally, big-time recording.

So do you have a preference as to performing in a studio or live?

Well, I’ve had the great fortune of experiencing both at a very high level so I, I really enjoy doing both but if I had to pick, it would be live performance. The freedom of being onstage with an audience – sharing the music – is very special to me.

Mr. Carlton, throughout your career as a session player, you’ve appeared on thousands of recordings from John Lennon to Steely Dan, Quincy Jones, The Partridge Family, Billy Joel and many more. Out of all these sessions, are there any that are particularly memorable for you?

All of them that you just mentioned are very memorable because of their success. As a studio musician, when I would go into the recording session for an artist like a Joni Mitchell, we didn’t know if the record was going to be a hit or not. We were just in there making the best music we could. It was unique with Joni Mitchell because she had never recorded with a rhythm section. It had always been just her guitar playing folk music. So that was an exciting time, to see what kind of music would come out for Joni with a rhythm section. And, obviously, the Steely Dan albums were highlights, or one of the highlights, of my career because the world embraced my guitar playing at another level because they were exposed to it through those great records.

After spending so much time as a session player, what were the events that led up to you joining the Crusaders?

I was doing some recording sessions starting in 1970 – not as busy as I became later. But anyway, one evening I was on a recording session and Joe Sample was the hired studio pianist for that night, and that was the first night we met. And Joe started playing the acoustic piano before the session started, and I picked up my guitar and joined in with him. And that was on a Friday night, and Monday morning my phone rang and it was the Crusaders’ office saying ‘Could you record for the next two weeks with the Crusaders? They’re already in the studio.’ So that’s how that came about.

One of your most famous covers is the, uh, Santo/Farina cover of, you did of Sleep Walk, uh, which was released in 1982. What drew you to that song?

You know, it’s interesting. I would love to take credit for that because it was very successful for me and actually, as you said, it became a career song for me. But I was producing another artist at that time and that artist’s manager suggested to me that I record Sleep Walk. And it seemed like a good match with the “sweet” sound that I can get out of the guitar, so I took his advice and recorded Sleep Walk and it became a hit.

And in 1985 you released your first acoustic jazz album called Alone but Never Alone and it included a beautiful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. And it appears you approach the acoustic guitar with the same style as the electric guitar. Which feels more at home in your hands?

I’m an electric guitar player first. I enjoy the acoustic but I find that I can express myself in a broader, wider musical sense on the electric guitar.

Of all the guitarists that are performing today, who do you feel has something original to offer the instrument?

You know, I won’t have an answer for that. I’m so busy – I’ve just started my own record label, 335 Records, I tour over 100 days a year all around the world – that I don’t get a chance, and I don’t take the chance, to listen very much because I’m so busy living my life.

Having performed all over the world, how would you compare the music fans overseas in places like Japan with those here in the United States?

Definitely the Asian audiences and the European audiences, in my opinion, are more appreciative and more loyal fans. Uh, I started going to Japan in 1974, and I was in Japan four times last year playing concerts. And many of the people who came to my concerts in 1980, 1982 now bring their children to my shows with them. So they’re very, very loyal. And the European audiences definitely listen differently than the U.S. audiences. The U.S. audiences are a little more fickle. If you’re on the radio, they like you and if you’re not on the radio, they forget about you, here in the U.S., often. And in Europe they base their whole relationship, especially with me – I’ll speak just for me – on what I play and how good I play it, not upon what some hit record that happens. So they’re really more interested in the artist than the songs on the radio.

On your album, Fire Wire, it seems like you were kind of experimenting more on that album and I was wondering, uh, was there anything in particular that gave you the idea to kind of branch out?

Opportunity. I, I’m so blessed. For the first time – starting in 2003, uh, I left Warner Brothers records – and for the first time in my, in 17 years, I’m a free agent. I can choose and be and do whatever I want to do as a musician. So I did, the first thing I did was do blues album, Sapphire Blue, the horn section, and we toured the world for two years. Came back and wanted to do something different so I associated myself with, uh, producer, Csaba Petocz, and we did the Fire Wire album, which was different, totally different than anything I had done in the past. So I’m just on a freedom dance.

Of all the guitars you have played on, if you had to pick one guitar to take with you for the rest of your life – and that would be just the guitar, your guitar – which one would it be?

I’ve been playing the same ES 335 Gibson since 1969. I’ve departed a few times but that’s my guitar. That’s what I’m known for and that’s the guitar that brings out the most music out of me, consistently.

Of all the songs you’ve written, is there a personal favorite of yours?

Difficult question because I don’t go back and re-listen to my own product after it’s released and we perform it for a year or so. Then I forget about a lot of those tunes. I know that I can tell you I love the relationship that the song Smiles and Smiles to Go has between me and my audience. It somehow, it united us in a way that is forever. It’s part of my career and part of their life.

 So, we’re getting closer to show time and we’re going to wrap this up but I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the band that will be playing this evening at Sambucca?
I sure will. This is, uh, another freedom dance for me, if you will. I just brought a trio – no keyboard player, which means there’s going to be a lot of guitar focus through the whole show and it’s an interesting challenge for me. Like Smiles and Smiles to Go that we were talking about, was based upon a keyboard part so the audience is going to experience it tonight without that foundation that they’re used to hearing. And, as I walked in the club tonight one gentleman said ‘Larry! Are you going to play Josie?’ I hadn’t planned on it because there’s no keyboard player here to carry that part, but I’m going to play Josie tonight as a trio even though it may be a little more empty (laughs).

Well, I have one more question for you, Mr. Carlton. Given that this radio special is broadcasting all over the world, what would you like to say to the world?

Thank you, thank you, thank you for listening and approving of my music. The one thing an artist cannot plan or work hard toward and accomplish is acceptance. So that’s the blessed part of my career. I played what I love and the world embraced that. And I thank you for that. I’m a very blessed man.

I thank you, Mr. Carlton, for your time. I really appreciate it.

OK. Thanks.

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