Musician - April 2010
Instrument: Piano, Voice
My wife and I were both from Los Angeles, and we were ready to leave.
Most people were going to Seattle, and our goal was to move to
Vancouver, B.C. We always stopped in Portland on our way north, and one
time we decided to visit Portland specifically. So we decided to take a
chance in '92. I had two phone numbers, one for George Mitchell, the
other for Phil Baker. Because both had worked for Diana Ross, a friend
of mine knew them. We had just enough to buy a house. My first gig here
was backing up Darcelle, it was a fundraiser and I was hired by the sax
player who was a friend of mine. In LA in the '70s, I was in top 40s
bands for years. Restaurants back then usually had a lounge, and they'd
hire four to five-piece bands five nights a week. You'd lock into a
chain like Rubin's, and you'd work at one and go around to the other
locations. My dad (Voyle Gilmore) was a drummer in the '30s in San
Francisco, and my mother was a big band singer. Dad ended up working
for Capital Records in the late '40s and worked there for twenty years.
He was a staff producer first and ended up as vice-president. Capitol
in those days was so much smaller. Dad produced the pop music ... he
produced Sinatra for five years. He also produced Les Paul and Mary
Ford, Nat King Cole, the Kingston Trio, and he did albums with Judy
Garland. The producers selected material; they'd call writers to “write
to order,” and writers like Johnny Mercer would write a tune for
Sinatra, for example. The craft was really alive then.
was a terrific singer. We used to sing duets at the piano. Dad knew a
little bit about the piano, so he'd show me basic chords. I sang first
and learned how to accompany myself later. I finally asked for lessons,
so they got me a wonderful teacher who used to play piano for Dezi
Arnaz. He showed me right off the bat how chords were made, how they
progressed, so I learned about theory and harmony before I learned
about the rudiments, so I was able to love it right away; I was
fourteen. I went to UCLA and majored in Music. They have a renowned
vocal program, and I got into glee club, choral singing, and group
singing of classical music. My first paying gig was in a church, I was
around eleven, I played the drums. We did the Motown tune,”Money,” and
people threw money at us. I always hoped I'd be a professional
musician. I think of myself as a singer who plays piano, not the other
way around. As I got older, I enjoyed jazz as a form more.
I would give is to play what the people want to hear, try and guage who
you are playing for, and try and satisfy them. As far as getting work,
you should have a minimum for what you’ll work for and don’t work for
less. Some players don’t have a minimum.
He was helped a lot by Tommy Dorsey, who'd say to Frank, “I'll take
care of the music; you take care of the lyrics.” He really instilled in
Frank how to interpret a song; and it's been helpful for me too. I owe
my dad a lot about teaching me to sing … what to think about while
singing. He used to say, let the song do the work. That's how important
the words are. I worked in a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Jimmy's
where Sinatra was a customer. He came in one night and sat right in
front of me. He didn't like people playing his material for him. I
remember thinking while I was playing; better not play anything he's
famous for! He actually applauded. One time he came in with Sammy
Davis, Gregory Peck and Ed McMahon. I couldn't believe I was playing
for those guys.
I’ve had a piano service business for twenty years. I tune, repair and
regulate pianos. Regulate means to make sure the piano plays evenly and
with the power and expression you’d expect.
Matt Monro, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Jimmy Webb, Michel
Legrand, and The Kingston Trio. (My dad discovered The Kingston Trio
and produced all their records.)
Most Satisfying Experience:
Opening for Dave Frishberg at “Vocal Madness” in 2007. That’s a show
John Wendeborn produced at the Benson Hotel. It’s a high point for me
because I’d had a lot of gigs but never really did a show where I put
together the material between the tunes, standing up and singing for a
half hour. Also, years ago, I got to emcee and sing with a full
orchestra backing me up at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas for its first
New Year’s Party.
Every Beatles album from '64 and '65; “Songs for Swingin' Lovers” and
“Sinatra at the Sands,” Frank Sinatra; “Francis Albert Sinatra,”
Antonio Carlos Jobim; “Cannonball Adderly and the Bossa Rio Sextet”
w/Sergio Mendes; “Nat Cole Sings – George Shearing Plays”; “After
Midnight Sessions,” Nat Cole; most Matt Monro albums; early Gordon
Lightfoot and most Kingston Trio.
I only have one, “For My Father & Frank,” which contains ten tunes
that were Sinatra hits that my dad produced and that I re-arranged. I
also have two originals on there. It was fun for me doing the research
and remembering things my dad had told me, and writing extensive liner
notes. It contains photos of my dad and Frank.
April 1, Tony Starlight's, variety show, 8 pm; April 28, Tony
Starlight's, 8 pm, singing the music of English balladeer Matt Monro;
April 9, Wilf's at Union Station, w/Tony Pacini trio; Sundays, Mondays
and Tuesdays, Lake House, Lake Oswego, 6-9 pm solo. I also work with
Ron Steen, Tim Rapp Kevin Deitz, Dave Captein, and vocalists Susanna
Morris and Tosha Miller, and occasionally with Tall Jazz.
Future Plans: I hope to make another CD and continue doing what I’m doing.
When I'm playing solo piano I think of the full orchestration of what
I'm doing, it keeps it interesting. Generally speaking I find it more
difficult to just sing (as opposed to accompanying myself singing).
-- by Rita Rega