Pleasanton's Firehouse to host acclaimed jazz
By Lou Fancher
Centuries of song reside in the buttery baritone voice of San Francisco-based jazz vocalist Spencer Day.
Bringing his cabaret-style show, "The Look of Love," to Pleasanton's Firehouse Arts Center on Sept. 12, the 37-year-old singer/songwriter exudes multiple influences. Improbably, for a singer in his fourth decade of life, a close listen to Day reveals a quarry of musical goods that date back 30, 50, sometimes 200 years.
Notice first the tight articulations that spring from Sunday-morning hymn-singing in a Mormon church during his childhood in Arizona. Or the yearning that rises from the too-shy boy who sang mostly in his bedroom before finally going public. Shades of Maurice Ravel's "Boléro" inform compositions and lyrics he writes that build simple themes into vibrant, emotional expressions of love, loss, fear and risk-taking.
And how does one explain a voice that captures the silky/dusty intonations of Rosemary Clooney, Julie London's breathiness, Frank Sinatra's "let's have a drink and a smoke" ease, and brushes up against the roughness of Chris Isaak without losing a cool groove reminiscent of Miles Davis or the beautiful, honest sound of a songbird as it flies through the Grand Canyon?
"Audiences fall in love with Day every time; that's why everywhere he plays they try to get him back as soon as they can," says Firehouse publicist Jane Onojafe. "We're lucky to have him here for the first time in the Tri-Valley."
Jazz Series producer Steven Shore, of Esses Production, says Day brings exactly the skills and qualities he looks for when selecting artists. "He's a seasoned performer and accomplished musician with charm, humor and great audience rapport."
Day is a popular ticket at Feinstein's in San Francisco, New York City's Birdland, the Hollywood Bowl, Tanglewood Music Center in Boston and other venues. His 2014 album, "Daybreak," debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Jazz Chart.
"I didn't take voice lessons; I was too shy," Day says. "But I loved music, and singing hymns was one of the main outlets. In my room, I'd imitate Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, others."
Eventually, Day broke free of restraint, grabbed the tail wind of his mother's soprano voice and began writing original music and expanding his repertoire of covers. "There are benchmarks where a new era is ushered in," Day says, "but the change is constant. Every night is different."
Embarking on "Angel City," a new album about living in Los Angeles that explores the meaning of true love, desire and fame, he asks, "What is fantasy, what is truth, in a city that represents dreams and hopes more than reality?"
The answers will come as they always do -- by playing with familiar, trusted fellow musicians but also with new collaborators who bring fresh perspectives on songs, or by deconstructing a trusted method and discovering newfound authenticity.
At Firehouse, Day says the playlist will include songs from Daybreak, jazz standards and covers of Swedish rock band The Cardigans, Dusty Springfield, Peter and Gordon and more. Instead of the 18-piece orchestra he brings to larger venues, John Storie (guitar) and Daniel Sabricant (bass) will join Day on piano and voice. "One thing I love about this show is that it's totally adaptable," he says.
Whether he's bringing an up-tempo swing to the dark, moody "Till You Come To Me," or emphasizing the pathos of "A World Without Love" (Paul McCartney wrote the Peter and Gordon hit that topped music charts in 1964), Day says he'll strive for something new. "You have to be fearless. Audiences love that, even if you wrote a song that same morning and it's raw. You should do one thing that terrifies you every day. There's a lot of pain in life, but the golden ring is losing self-awareness."