The laid-back sound of Chaise Lounge in ‘Jazz Upstairs’
Allentown’s Miller Symphony Hall welcomes the Washington area ensemble Chaise Lounge to its “Jazz Upstairs” series in the Rodale Community Room, 7:30 p.m. July 13.
The sextet offers swinging numbers that feature vocalist Marilyn Older while spotlighting an all-star lineup.
Charlie Barnett, who plays piano, accordion and guitar with the group, writes the tunes. His background as a composer is voluminous. He’s done more than 400 film and television show scores. He’s received awards and Emmy nominations. His orchestral and chamber works have been performed around the globe. And he’s arranged and produced pop and jazz records for numerous artists.
Barnett has also written a play, “Twelveness,” dealing with Arnold Schoenberg and George Gershwin, their tennis matches, friendship and musical tastes, among other things. He’s working with two collaborators on a musical, “19,” about Alice Paul and the fight for women’s suffrage.
Barnett’s television credits include “Saturday Night Live,” “Weeds,” “Royal Pains” and “Archer.”
Notable collaborations include a spoken-word piece written and performed with Dr. Maya Angelou.
Barnett has recorded scores of pop and jazz albums for labels, including Def Jam and Elektra.
“I honestly don’t like promoting this band [Chaise Lounge] as a jazz band,” Barnett says in a phone interview. “In some ways, it’s a chamber ensemble.
“We play jazz music for people who don’t really care for jazz. In a way, it’s as if you took singer-songwriter material and put it in the hands of six very good jazz musicians.
“Our sound is commercial jazz circa 1962. All the group members understand the showiness of it. They all came in loving Louie Prima and Astrud Gilberto. Most of my material is original but it’s all redolent of a previous era.”
Of singer Marilyn Older, Barnett says, “Lyrically I think Marilyn is some sort of genius in delivering a cool, heart-felt story.”
The group’s beginnings go back to when Older was working for Barnett. He notes, “She was doing all sorts of things. I would be writing a melody for, say, English horn. I’d ask her to sing this while I play this. Her center of pitch and her memory impressed me immediately.
“Later, when she was no longer working for me, she said she’d been listening to Astrud Gilberto. She asked if I was interested in starting a band. I had a number of other things going but I couldn’t say no.
“We wrote a song together for another project. I called some of my favorite session guys together. On our second gig, they said we should have a sax player. Lo and behold, 19 years later we’re still together. The only difference is that we have a new trombone player.”
Older has been singing professionally since she graduated as a music technology major from American University, Washington, D.C. She has written songs and performed with a variety of bands, including Nixon’s Cat, Dead Girls & Other Stories and has toured as a pianist with Doc Scantlin’s Royal Palms Orchestra. She’s been nominated for a Wammy as the District of Columbia area’s best vocalist.
She has contributed as a lyricist to Chaise Lounge’s material and has written songs for a number of independent films. She’s also director of the Holistic Practitioners’ Business Association.
Drummer Tommy Barrick can be heard with a variety of acts ranging from swing and jazz to Latin, funk and punk around the Washington, D.C., area. He’s performed throughout the United States and Europe and can be heard on many television and film scores.
He’s also a Wammy nominee and a five-time winner for his contributions to Washington, D.C., music scene. Barrick recently published his first percussion method book, “The Paradiddle Workbook.”
Las Vegas native Gary Gregg performs with many Washington, D.C., ensembles, including The Cutaways, The Tuxedo Park Orchestra and his own sextet. He is in demand for his work on clarinet, tenor and flute.
Trombonist Joe Jackson attended the University of North Texas. He played in the One O’Clock Lab Band. He performed with the Maynard Ferguson Band throughout the United States and Europe and later joined the U.S. Air Free Airmen of Note. There he created the “Jazz Heritage Broadcast Series.”
Jackson transferred to the U.S. Air Force Ceremonial Brass but continued honing his big band chops with groups like the Woody Herman Orchestra and David Liebman Big Band. He joined Chaise Lounge in 2012. He’s also done numerous arrangements and works with a number of Washington, D.C., area nonprofits, all of which serve roles in the education, rights and welfare of children in the United States and Africa.
Bassist Pete Ostle served in “Pershing’s Own,” playing with the Concert Band, Army Blues, Army Chorus, Army Orchestra, and Army Chorale during his 20-year military service tenure. He formed La Carte Brass & Percussion, for which he plays sousaphone.
He also leads the Tuxedo Park Orchestra, a 10-piece swing band. In addition, he plays double bass with a number of Washington, D.C., area orchestras. Ostle has a degree in arranging and composition from Berklee College of Music, Boston, Mass.
Of the band, Barnett says, “They’re all cut from the same bolt of cloth. We’re all interested in stories. When Gary plays a solo he’s not out to impress you with his chops. He’s interested in telling a 32-bar story.”
Barnett encourages prospective “Jazz Upstairs” attendees: “Come for a really nice date night out with a warm invitation written in every song. The audience will walk out of there in a better mood than when they came in.”
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; allentownsymphony.org; 610-432-6715