The Great American Songbook is a catch-all code for the most important American popular songs and jazz standards of the early 20th century. Its pages include Broadway showtunes and Hollywood film music by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and many other greats.
The genre has long engendered terrific vocalists, like Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra and Streisand to name a few. Enter here a new kid on that block.
Embarked on her first tour as a headliner, Sheléa brings a swinging five-piece band to Carmel this weekend for a show called Natural Woman: A Night of Soul. She cites the late greats Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin as her main inspirations, and her musical medley tributes to both women are spine-tingling and tear-jerking. Expect both, mashed up with a powerful, soulful presence.
Sheléa is all that Broadway jazz and much more, tumbled with gospel-infused R&B and straight-ahead pop soul, all lifted by her own smooth piano stylings and sultry originals.
Raised Sheléa Frazier in a church-centered musical family from Bakersfield, she started singing duets with her mom on piano when she was just two. Her mother also sang in the church choir while her father was a songwriter for the congregation’s plays.
The So Cal-based pianist, singer, and songwriter has a voice which immediately engages you, even if she’s just in the background. And like water, exceptional talent finds its own level. Hence her being noticed very early on by the likes of Quincy Jones, who featured her in a PBS concert special of his earlier this year, and Stevie Wonder, who she joined at the White House in 2012, and for his Songs In the Key Of Life tour in 2015. She also attracted interest from singer-producer Narada Michael Warden, who introduced her to the prolific songwriting team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman (“Windmills Of Your Mind,” “What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life?”) at a music conference, saying that Sheléa was going to play their song “Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way” for them.
“Only problem was, I had never played that song before,” Sheléa recalls, “By song’s end the Bergmans were both in tears, saying they hadn’t ever heard that song of theirs performed so beautifully.”
The Bergmans were impressed enough that they picked a dozen songs for Sheléa. These form the setlist of Sheléa’s recently released third studio effort Pretty World: Through the Eyes of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
SHELÉA 8pm Saturday, Nov. 2. Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel. $39-$59. 620-2048. sunsetcenter.org