Music

Harry and Gary impersonators unmasked in Barbados

Harry and Gary after the show in Barbados

Harry and Gary after the show in Barbados

As you know, a couple of weeks ago I was in Barbados with Harry The Piano and Sinatra Jukebox for the Holder's festival. I've just had this email from a Mr Rob Brooks who came to the show with his wife and friends: “Just thought I'd let you know that on the Sunday night in the Lime Bar, Limegrove Mall, two likely lads were trying to pass themselves off as you and 'Harry the Piano' to gain access to the ladies in the throng. However they got a flea in their ear and short shrift when they tried to use the patter on our wives, Rose and Shirley, who'd just seen you two - the real deal - at the Holders festival! My pal and I called their bluff when we challenged them to a 'Sinatra-sing-off'. Only in Barbados eh?”

If it's true love you're after...

Barb Jungr

Barb Jungr

I've always hated working on Valentine's night. Too many years singing cozy ballads to couples desperately trying to remember what they ever saw in each other. “Where are you taking me Valentine's night?” It's a problem. Most couples are so busy with kids, work and everything in between that they need Hallmark to remind them to spent some quality time together. But a whole evening of uninterrupted conversation with the love of your life is an alarming prospect. Seeing a show or a movie is a welcome distraction but not without risk.

Listening to someone like me singing “love is here to stay” only reminds you and your beau of what you're missing. Do you really want to hear the hits of Nat 'King' Cole when you can barely stand the sight of each other?

I have a better idea. An evening with Barb Jungr singing Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. If it's passion your after, this is the real thing. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, Everybody Knows, A Thousand Kisses Deep, Chimes of Freedom – it doesn't get much better. Barb Jungr is a great lover. She listens, caresses every line and holds nothing back.

No sugared sentiments here but you will see true love in action.

Tonight at the South Bank.

A celebration of David Jacobs

A page from Pebble Mill's running order 18 years ago

A page from Pebble Mill's running order 18 years ago

I'll be recording with the BBC Concert Orchestra next week for a special “Celebration of David Jacobs” alongside Michael Ball, Joe Stilgoe, Marti Webb and Liz Robertson. Other contributors include Chris Evans, Tony Hall (Director General of the BBC), Desmond Carrington and Ken Bruce. It's scheduled for broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on Sunday 9th February, almost exactly 18 years to the day after I first met David on Pebble Mill. Here's a nice find from the archive, a page from the BBC's running order of that very Pebble Mill broadcast. Happy memories.

I am coming back from the Caribbean for this concert, and then flying back again straight afterwards (for one day) then back to London. That's 15,000 miles in 5 days. I'm going to spend my wages on flight socks and sleeping pills.

Oasis of the Seas countdown begins

Excitement is mounting as Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, is soon it visit Europe for the first time. Royal Caribbean's Michelle Arrazola generously said today, "On Oasis of the Seas, guest expectations are high. We need the best of the best. That's why Gary Williams was always on our wish list". The feeling's mutual; I'm thrilled to be a part of the entertainment line up for this historic season. The crossing from Miami starts on 1st September.

It won't be my first time on board Oasis. I was lucky enough to attend the very first guest cruises and the official naming. Click here my own video of the best bits of the ship. Click here to read more on Royal Caribbean's web site.

New shows added due to popular demand

December's Christmas show at the Crazy Coqs has almost sold out so we've added two new Sinatra Jukebox shows just after Christmas. Harry the Piano will be away sunning himself somewhere, well... sunny so I'll be joined by the very talented Nathan Martin at the piano.

Click here to see the Sinatra Jukebox video, reviews and song list.

Bookings are open now here. See you there!

Thank you, Mr. Jacobs

Pebble Mill with Alan Titchmarsh, Laura Fygi and David Jacobs

Pebble Mill with Alan Titchmarsh, Laura Fygi and David Jacobs

“So,” I asked with wide-eyed anticipation, “what was Frank Sinatra really like to work with?”“Fucking difficult.”

So began my first conversation with the late David Jacobs. He charmed everyone he met and though it didn't happen often, I loved it when he swore. 

I'd known David for almost 20 years but known of him all my life. Like the Royal Family or Brillo Pads he was always reliably and reassuringly there. A constant part of British culture, his voice – avuncular, never condescending – was part of our soundscape. A true national treasure.

We met on the BBC's 'Pebble Mill at One' paying tribute to Vic Damone, the singer David liked to call “our Vic.” I sang a song and joined the other guests on the sofa. It was my first TV appearance and David could not have been more supportive. Soon after we were touring the country together and David became my mentor.

Half way through our tour we were playing the large and prestigious Symphony Hall in Birmingham. I was intimidated by the place and felt we should cut some of our shtick from the show (we had a routine where David catches me impersonating him and sends me off stage before calling me back to sing a duet together). I've never forgotten the advice he gave me that day: “People are the same wherever you go. Regardless of income or background people like to have a good time. Don't let the venue throw you. Have confidence that what we're doing works.” He was right. We kept the routine in and the audience loved it.

Performers have big egos. If we didn't think we were wonderful we'd never have the confidence to do what's expected of us. The trick is not letting our egos get the better of us. Theatrical tradition dictates that dressing room number one is reserved for the star, the top of the bill. It's usually the largest room and can, if you're very lucky, have such luxuries as a sink and two wire coat hangers. Number two usually lacks such frills and is reserved for an artiste lower down the theatrical ladder of significance. Any egalitarian pretence that might develop during cast rehearsals can come crashing down by the hierarchical divisions dictated by dressing room allocation. David was, of course, the star of our show. He was the name people were coming to see. I was the singer they happened to get. For our first string of tour dates the Company Manager, quite rightly, gave David dressing room number one and me number two. After a few days David told me he was uncomfortable with the arrangement. “You,” he said, “are the star of this production and it is you who should have the number one dressing room.” He dismissed my protests and insisted on demoting himself to my room. Only a man of enormous kindness and self-confidence could act so generously.

Don't get me wrong, David wasn't short on self confidence. He told me as much while we schlepped between one nighters in Dunfermline and Canterbury (oh, the joys of touring). “I can't pass a mirror without admiring myself,” he said. “I look at myself and say, 'Hello David. You're looking awfully good today.'” Coming from anyone else such narcissism would have been painful to hear, but with David it was nothing but endearing. Why? Charm. He was a glamorous man whose old-school manners, sense of humour and natural ease seduced everyone he met. And he met everyone from the Beatles (“George Harrison used to call me Dave”) and Judy Garland (his “most exciting professional moment”).

David Jacobs was a great role model for me. Effortlessly cool, always with a twinkle in his eye and generous to everyone in his orbit. Most importantly he was a good, kindhearted human being. So, thank you Mr. Jacobs, I feel blessed to have known you.

The World's Largest Cruise Ship Comes to Europe

The world’s largest and most innovative cruise ship is coming to Europe and Gary Williams has been confirmed as part of the entertainment line-up. The Oasis of the Seas will make a 12-night eastbound cruise from the ship’s homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona on 1st September 2014 and a 13-night westbound cruise will return Oasis of the Seas to Port Everglades from Rotterdam on 14th October or Southampton on 15th.

Once in Europe, Oasis of the Seas will offer a choice of three European sailings. Guests can choose among two roundtrip sailings on a five-night Western Mediterranean itinerary from Barcelona, and a seven-night Spain itinerary sailing from Barcelona to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where Oasis of the Seas will enter dry dock in Képpel Verolme shipyard for routine maintenance. Additionally, a two-night Bahamas cruise departing on 30th August and a five-night Western Caribbean cruise departing on 27th Oct both roundtrip from Port Everglades, will bookend Oasis of the Seas’ short 2014 Europe season.

Demand has been unprecedented for this landmark event and Gary is thrilled to be a part of it. “I was lucky enough to be onboard Oasis on her maiden voyage and launch, but didn't perform,” said Gary, “With a capacity of over 6000 guests, she is massive to say the least. As a feat of engineering she is truly awe inspiring.”

Mel Tormé's pianist

I'm delighted to be working with John Coliani, Mel Tormé's legendary piano player, on 31 August at Boisdale Belgravia. I've been a fan of his since I heard his playing on one of my favourite Tormé CD's: The Great American Songbook Live At Michael's Pub in New York City. It'll be a good weekend with this on the Saturday and Ronnie Scott's the day after. Check out the diary page for more details.

Live In Brazil review by Encore Magazine

This is the new Gary Williams CD which comes hot on the heels of his book Cabaret Secrets (cabaretsecrets.com). Gary has been entertaining audiences both in this country and abroad not to mention on the ocean waves for many years. You may have seen Gary singing songs from the 20th Century songbook including many associated with Frank Sinatra but this CD offers much more... It is evident from the opening medley of The Coffee Song & Brazil that Gary does indeed have a musical affinity with Brazil. This wonderful "live" album was recorded in Febraury 2013 during his headlining season aboard the Splendour of the Seas.

This is indeed the current flavour of Gary Williams singing as he performs many of his favourite Brazilian songs and South America themes plus some surprises and classics of the songbook too. You can hear that the audience are taken along with this theme and the chat is aplenty. The format of the CD is such that the chat segments have their own track numbers allowing for just the musical numbers to be be played if that is your wish.

Gary comes across as enthusiastic and reactive throughout this 62 minute, 22 track, master class in entertaining an audience. It is always difficult to transfer a "live" performance to an album as the contact between performer and audience is so much a part of the success of the show. This album brings with it all the atmosphere of a modern cabaret/stage show. Gary is in fine voice throughout and is backed by a really lively orchestra led by musical director & pianist/keyboards Jack Borkofski.

The modern day medley selections include a Gipsy Kings medley; a Lady Gaga swing medley and the Kylie Minogue shuffle. All time favourites include My Way; L.O.V.E.; When I Fall in Love & What a Wonderful World. These along with the Brazilian themed songs and plenty of other familiar songs make for a special musical journey.

The CD is available from Jazz CDs (www.jazzcds.co.uk); Dress Circle (www.dresscircle.com) and will soon be out to download from the usual places.

Clive Fuller Encore Magazine

A first on the Royal Princess

As I type this, the Duchess of Cambridge is almost certainly flicking through her frocks, wondering what to wear for tomorrow's ceremony when she names the new Royal Princess cruise ship at Southampton. No doubt she's wondering what the ship's like; I'm expecting her call any moment now.  I've just got back from Southampton - honoured to be the very first entertainer to perform in their new Vista Lounge. The ship's lovely. Lots of new features and as you'd expect, very shiny. I'm not a big one for taking pictures, I figure you can see better on their website, but here are a few I snapped on my iPad.

Royal Princess

That's a big telly

Skywalk

Theatre

When Harry Met Gary

Star of the West End's 'Rat Pack' Gary Williams has joined forces with Harry the Piano (‘The best damn pianist in the civilised world’ Jonathan Ross) for an evening of musical perfection and tomfoolery.  The boys have no idea what they are doing. Only the audience know what's coming next as they wait for their command. Welcome to 'Sinatra Jukebox', a show full of surprises as Gary (“One of the best voices Britain has ever produced” The Times), performs whatever the audience requests from 100 of Ol' Blue Eyes' best loved hits.

Gary is joined by Harry the Piano who plays absolutely anything on piano (“Staggering virtuosity” The Sunday Times, “An uncanny ability” The Independent), has YouTube hits of over three million and is known for playing any tune in any style upon request.

If you're very nice they might even play their Lady Gaga Foxtrot medley - an irreverent nod to Sinatra's favourite arranger, Nelson Riddle.

Sharpen your pencils and catch Gary Williams and Harry the Piano, your very own walking, talking Sinatra Jukebox. Remember, if you don't like it, you've only got yourself to blame.

The place The Crazy Coqs The dates 16th-20th April 2013

See you there!