Record producer Tommy Krasker is going into the recording studio Jan. 21 to complete a disc of songs featuring Broadway actor-singer Darius de Haas performing the music of Billy Strayhorn.
The yet-to-be-titled vocal album will be released in spring by Krasker's label, ps classics, which in 2000 and 2001 released discs devoted to Jerome Moross ("Windflowers"), Vincent Youmans ("Through the Years") and actor-tenor Philip Chaffin ("Where Do I Go From You?").
The new album is inspired by a cabaret concert de Haas performed in New York City in 2001, first at the Kaplan Penthouse in March as part of the American Songbook Series, then during the summer in a two-week engagement at Arci's Place.
"I saw Darius' first performance at the Kaplan Penthouse, and loved it not only for the sheer musicianship, but also for the feel of the show, which drew on all Darius' talents: It was part theatre piece, part jazz set, and part concert," Krasker told Playbill On Line. "Darius had assembled a quintet of gifted musicians to work with him, mostly from the pop and jazz world, but at the same time, the approach reflected Darius' theatrical and classical sensibilities as well."
Half of the Strayhorn program was recorded in December with the quintet of Deidre Rodman, Brad Jones, J.T. Lewis, Roy Nathanson and Marvin Sewell. "But Darius and I also wanted to augment the forces a bit for recording, and we called on one of our favorite orchestrators, Bruce Coughlin, to help us maintain the theatrical balance," Krasker said. Coughlin and Krasker first worked together on the disc of Floyd Collins. Strayhorn is best known as Duke Ellington's longtime collaborator, and wrote the tune that became Ellington's signature work, "Take the 'A' Train."
Although Strayhorn wrote both words and music, the album will include collaborations with lyricists Johnny Mercer ("Satin Doll") and John Latouche ("Day Dream").
"A couple of tunes, like 'Take the 'A' Train' and 'Satin Doll,' are standards," Krasker said. "Others, like 'Lush Life' and 'Something to Live For,' are widely known to Strayhorn fans. We're also including two little-known selections from a 1957 suite called 'Such Sweet Thunder,' inspired by Shakespeare's verse, and unveiling two songs from an unproduced musical [Rose-Colored Glasses] that Strayhorn wrote in the mid-'50s with Luther Henderson."
Darius de Haas has performed on Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Lincoln Center's revival of Carousel, Rent, The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm and Marie Christine, and played C.C. in the recent Actors' Fund benefit of Dreamgirls. He was embraced for his work in the title role of Music Theatre Group's Running Man, snagging an Obie Award in 1999. Recordings include "Children of Eden,", John Adams' "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky" and Ricky Ian Gordon's "Bright Eyed Joy."
Krasker has recorded de Haas four times before, on "Ceiling/Sky," "Myths and Hymns," "Bright-Eyed Joy" and "Dreamgirls."
Krasker is a three-time Grammy Award nominee, and is currently Grammy-nommed for Best Show Music Album for the New York Philharmonic recording of Sweeney Todd.
For psclassics information, visit psclassics.com.
— By Kenneth Jones