PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Alysha Umphress and Jeff Blumenkrantz Pick Their Jazz Favorites | Playbill

Playlist PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Alysha Umphress and Jeff Blumenkrantz Pick Their Jazz Favorites Alysha Umphress, currently starring in the Broadway revival of On the Town, and Tony Award-nominated composer and performer Jeff Blumenkrantz celebrate their new album "I've Been Played: Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz" Jan. 5 at Birdland. The two pick their favorite jazz songs as part of this week's Playbill Playlist.
Alysha Umphress
Alysha Umphress

Umphress and Blumenkrantz will perform songs from their upcoming new album, including original songs by Blumenkrantz and original arrangements created specifically for Umphress of the standards "Spring Is Here/Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most," "I Don't Need Anything But You" and "You Are Never Away/Ten Minutes Ago."

They'll be joined by Tedd Firth on piano, Pete Donovan on bass, Ray Marchica on drums, Dan Willis on sax/flute and Peter Sachon on cello.

Show time is 7 PM.

"I've Been Played: Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz" will be released on Yellow Sound Label Jan. 6 and features the vocals of Umphress and original jazz songs and arrangements by Blumenkrantz. Produced by Blumenkrantz and Michael Croiter, the album will be available via Amazon and iTunes.

The track list follows:

1. Two Cents
2. Why Can't I Kiss You?
3. I Don't Need Anything But You
4. I've Been Played
5. Mayday! M'aider!
6. Time Does Not Bring Relief
7. Celebrate
8. Steal Away
9. Spring Is Here/Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
10. Man in the Moon
11. You Are Never Away/Ten Minutes Ago
12. Giving Thanks
13. Bonus Track: You Smell So Good

Birdland is located at 315 W. 44th Street. For more information and tickets, visit

Jeff Blumenkrantz: Lambert, Hendricks and Ross are, to me, the hippest jazz singers of all time. They turned Vocalese into an art form. My favorite track of theirs is probably "Home Cookin'," inspired by the Horace Silver track of the same name. Listen to both so you can hear the artistry in the adaptation!

Jeff Blumenkrantz: When it comes to solo jazz vocalists, Ella [Fitzgerald] is undoubtedly the queen. I worship every one of her recordings, but as I prepared for our CD, I was particularly inspired by the sessions she did with pianist Ellis Larkins. Her tone, her musicality, her handling of the text, her sense of swing, so exposed with just the piano accompaniment... untouchable. (He's pretty great too.)

Jeff Blumenkrantz: I find I keep going back to the Getz/Gilberto Jobim album - it's irresistible, timeless, super cool and super hot. Here's "So Danco Samba."

Jeff Blumenkrantz: I'd say the jazz recording I listen to more than any other is probably the soundtrack for "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort." Michel Legrand is a genius! Here's "Chanson des Jumelles." (Yes, that's Catherine Deneuve, lip-syncing to another singer's voice. Great sound match, IMHO.)

Jeff Blumenkrantz: "Carmen Sings Monk" is one of my all-time favorite recordings. I love the age and authority in Carmen McRae's voice, and I think the Thelonious Monk songs are adapted really well. Here's "How I Wish."

Jeff Blumenkrantz: I had to include a Jackie and Roy track, because their sound/style was probably my greatest inspiration for this recording. (In fact, Alysha and I pay homage to them with the bonus track on our CD!) Their duets are so sweet and swingy, and you can hear the love and history of collaboration.


 Jeff Blumenkrantz: Honorable Mentions!: There's so much jazz that has inspired me - I have to include these honorable mentions! Shirley Horn, Blossom Dearie, Holly Cole, Claude Bolling, Manhattan Transfer (arranged by the one and only Phil Mattson), and the great jazz musical, City of Angels.

Alysha Umphress: "You Don't know What Love Is." Haunting. Tragic. Gorgeous. Here's Chet Baker's version. Chet Baker has the smoothest sound. His voice and his trumpet playing. I can listen to Chet Baker anytime, anywhere, any season. He's transportive. Romantic, dreamy, harrowing.

Alysha Umphress: "Teach me Tonight." It's sexy and coquettish and sweet. Here's Dinah Washington's version. She is my all-time favorite singer. There is such a pain in her voice. It's not perfect, but it's so interesting.

Alysha Umphress: "I Wish You Love." The lyrics are so sweet and real. That tricky place where you love someone, but you know it's just not right so you have to let them go and wish them well. Blossom Dearie has one of the most singular voices I've ever heard. She sounds like a cross between an ethereal fairy/sex kitten/baby doll. I absolutely adore her version.

Alysha Umphress: "Cry Me a River." It's so bad ass. I feel like I'm picking all the songs that are on my first album, but then again, that would make sense because they are my favorite. Here's the Goddess herself, Ella Fitzgerald.

Alysha Umphress: "Moon River." (So many songs with river in the title!) There's just something about it. It's sweeping and romantic and gorgeous. Here's one of favorite singers alive and well and living in New York City, Jane Monheit, just slaying it.


Alysha Umphress: "Lush Life" is my all-time favorite song. It's heartbreaking. Billy Strayhorn wrote it for Duke Ellington (he was madly in love with him) WHEN HE WAS 17 years old. Blows my mind. The lyrics are so complex as is the melody. It's a really difficult song to sing. I'm obsessed. Sarah Vaughn's is probably the most famous version, so here it is.

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