Mardin Produces Another Hit?

Mister D: I know his name is spelled wrong in this article, so don’t write me:-)

music reporter
Errico minds her music for producer Marden
Apr. 03, 2003
By Tamara Conniff

“I realized it’s like a 1950s seedy bar on Sunset Boulevard,” famed producer Arif Marden explains. “And this lecher sitting at the bar is looking at her, and she’s feeling hot under the collar. I put a sexy alto sax in there. It’s like an old Mickey Spillane book.”

Marden, who picked up three Grammys this year for his work with jazz/pop singer Norah Jones, has lent his skills to yet another songbird: Broadway star Melissa Errico, whose debut album, “Blue Like That,” was recently released on Manhattan Records.

In recording the album, which is a blend of jazz and pop, Marden and Errico created mental scenes like the “seedy bar,” which served as the emotional backdrop for the song “Hot in Here.”

“She assumes the character of the songs,” says Marden, who also is general manager of Manhattan Records. “This project brings to mind a lot of visuals.”

Creating character is second nature to Errico, whose acting credits include the national touring company of “Les Miserables,” the Broadway productions “Anna Karenina” and “My Fair Lady,” guest spots on NBC’s “Ed” and such films as “Life or Something Like It” and “Frequency.”

“I literally see myself in a world for each song,” she says. “It’s different and similar (to theater). I’m creating stories and moments and characters in my head — each song to me is a scene. I go there in the same way I would commit myself to the story of a big show, but it’s so much more personal because it’s stories that I’ve chosen to interpret. You cannot tailor-make your music in the theater.”

The album features four original songs (two written by her brother Mike Errico) and covers by such songwriters as Randy Newman, Billy Joel and Rickie Lee Jones.

“She selected the songs from the ’60s and ’70s and really sank her teeth into them (and) re-interpreted the songs,” Marden says. “I think it’s in the air now. I guess this kind of singing is finding an audience — it’s just heartfelt.”

Marden, who has worked with such greats as Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Bette Midler and Patti LaBelle, points out that Errico and Jones are part of a trend that is hitting 30-and-over consumers interested in melodic jazz-influenced music. In addition to Jones and Errico, there are such jazz/pop artists as Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Peter Cincotti and rocker-turned-crooner Rod Stewart.

“People are paying attention and signing these kinds of artists,” Marden says. “Hopefully, I can start a word-of-mouth (buzz) with Melissa the way Norah started. It’s similar in a way because human beings are playing the music.”

Errico’s move from Broadway to jazz clubs took almost four years. “I had ideas that when you come out of the theater, you’re supposed to sing show tunes, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to,’ ” Errico says.

But in working with Marden, her theater background proved invaluable. “Collaborations are how I function,” she says. “I don’t come out of the world of jazz or pop, where you’re creating your own shell. I come out of the theater — and Broadway is the collaboration at the craziest level in terms of quantity of people involved.”

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