Gary Negbaur | Let me explain

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Jazz: Retro Swing Blues: Jazzy Blues Moods: Type: Vocal
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Let me explain

by Gary Negbaur

The singing, swinging love child of Harry Connick Jr. and Paul Shaffer - swinging, funny and poignant tunes.
Genre: Jazz: Retro Swing
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Alphabet Love
3:23 $0.99
2. Red Pontiac
3:04 $0.99
3. Three Blind Nights
4:55 $0.99
4. Purple Haze
4:14 $0.99
5. Cold Front
4:26 $0.99
6. Lust & Love & Faith in God
3:05 $0.99
7. Invade My Space
4:03 $0.99
8. Just About Enough
3:15 $0.99
9. Brother Brad
3:57 $0.99
10. Falling Down
2:43 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

Jeff Pearlman, The Tennessean

Gary Negbaur is a New York pianist who is bringing his black and white skills to Windows on the Cumberland Monday night and Pub of Love Tuesday. Simply put, Negbaur is the guy who within a year could be up there in the national spotlight with Harry Connick Jr. performing his smooth, sometimes passionate piano-based love songs. Pay special attention to his version of 'Purple Haze,' a most triumphant cover of the Hendrix classic.

Jack Neely, Metro Pulse

Gary Negbaur's almost too modest to pass for a New Yorker - and a Harvard graduate at that. His live shows have earned extravagant raves from Chicago to Austin. Negbaur's pleased with the fuss, but chalks it up to 'the hospitality factor' that he thinks Americans habitually extend to a performer from New York.

His CD titled Let me explain, the last three words you usually hear from an ex-lover, came out in 1994. It was an unusual CD for a guy not quite 30 to make, with ironic but still swingin' original tunes like "Invade My Space," "Three Blind Nights," and "Alphabet Love." Negbaur is at ease with a piano, swimming through it like some kind of jazz porpoise...

Some Negbaur songs, like "Lust & Love & Faith in God" and "Red Pontiac" are strongly reminiscent of Lyle Lovett, whose influence Negbaur acknowledges. You might see Negbaur as an urban Lovett, without the large band and the large hair. But Negbaur says his greatest idol is legendary hipster piano-vocalist Mose Allison. He also resembles another piano-bar lyricist, Dave ("I'm Hip") Frishberg.

"I met him once," Negbaur says. "I got to see him, shake his hand - the standard idolatry." He says he's finding that niche, that audience of people who both appreciate jazz and enjoy lyrics.

Negbaur does some covers, though when you're doing jazz, you call them 'standards.' "Jazz is about the song," he explains. "You're supposed to reinterpret the classics. That's a standard. But a rock band uses synthesizers to try to recreate the sound of a recording. That's a cover. It's a very different philosophy."

There's one slow smooth, familiar standard on the record: a little number from the old days called "Purple Haze." "I played 'Purple Haze' in this club at happy hour, and I did it slow, and slower. Really, the lyrics almost ask for a slower tempo. Prosody is what musicians call a successful marriage of lyrics and music: 'Purple Haze' seems to need a slow, mysterioso kind of sound."


Don't look for anyone smashing equipment, taking off their clothes or stage diving. It's not Gary Negbaur's style. "I can't say I'll mosh with the best of them," says the pianist/singer/songwriter with a chuckle.

What Negbaur will do, however, is deliver witty, sophisticated songs in a loose and jazzy style that may have you inexplicably ordering dry martinis instead of beer. Negbaur's drawn comparisons to Harry Connick Jr., among others, due to suave vocals and deft piano stylings that touch on blues, jazz and pop.

"I'm comfortable with whatever moniker they give me. But I'm a lot closer to someone like Tom Waits than Mel Torme or Connick." Another comparison easily made is to Lyle Lovett, mostly due to Negbaur's unique storytelling. The material shows a man with an odd sense of humor and a quirky outlook on life. On "Three Blind Nights," a bride and the best man kill the groom on the wedding night. There is another odd twist to the tale, but who wants to ruin it.

Yet Negbaur can also tickle the ivory. He began studying classical piano at age seven, but not necessarily by his own choice. "I wasn't that interested, but my mother was a piano teacher, so there was no escaping it." When Negbaur discovered jazz and blues, the piano became attractive. But he still attended Harvard with a public health career in mind.

"Music was this other thing I was always doing. By the time I graduated, I had to make a choice." His choice: music. After a few years of playing and touring, Negbaur attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music for one semester. His stay was highlighted by piano master classes with heavyweights like Billy Taylor, Ellis Marsalis and Connick himself. "It was great to see these people in the flesh and relate to them as one musician to another rather than as an audience member."

Negbaur is currently touring the Midwest supporting his CD Let me explain, which features several guests, including the Uptown Horns, who have played with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Albert Collins and Waits. But Negbaur will be hitting the road solo, peeking his head into every jazz, blues or college club he can. "I guess because I'm a little hard to place genre-wise, I end up doing a lot different types of clubs."

Negbaur feels the current climate is right for him and his brand of music. "My arrangements are fairly stark. There are other people doing will with a bare-bones approach. The success of Connick and the re-emergence of Tony Bennett have been great for me and my music. Even though I'm doing a slightly different thing, it's coming from the same tradition."

Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald

Gary Negbaur is used to being cast as a jazzman. In fact, the New York-based musician doesn't really mind the label and - after studying with musicians such as Dr. Billy Taylor, Ellis Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. - it's a title he can claim. But that's not how he sees himself.

"I don't call myself a jazz artist," says Negbaur, a classically trained pianist who received awards in 1994 and 1995 from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for songwriting. "But I feel comfortable with other people calling me that."

Negbaur calls himself a singer/songwriter, even thought it's a tag often associated with folk musicians. But that's what he is - a pianist/singer/songwriter whose lyric-driven, groove-oriented tunes are infused with a breezy style that appeals to popsters, folkies and jazz fans alike.

"In my mind, I'm closer to Lyle Lovett or Randy Newman than jazz vocalists like Mel Torme or Tony Bennett," says Negbaur. "The folk crowd can really appreciate the lyrics, while people at jazz clubs are there for the groove."

With mostly originals and a few clever twists, Let me explain features the wry, bouncy "Invade My Space" and the bittersweet "Falling Down." Highlights include "Cold Front," where doing the laundry masks a broken heart; "Three Blind Nights," where Negbaur spins a dangerous love triangle out of a nursery rhyme; and a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," which he reworks into an intriguingly supple groove. "It's familiar and extremely unusual," he says of his bold piano version of a guitar classic. "It rings a bell and raises an eyebrow."

Which is exactly his intent. Whether it's a jazz standard or a rock cover, Negbaur puts his own stamp on the tune. "If I don't have some sort of take on it," says Negbaur who studied at Harvard University and the Berklee College of Music, "I'm not interested in doing it."

Robert H. Rufa, Mountain Express

New Yorker Gary Negbaur is an educated jazz pianist/singer/composer - his resume lists Harvard U. and the Berklee C. of Music and master classes with Harry Connick Jr., Ellis Marsalis and Billy Taylor. But forget about comparisons to Connick - or for that matter, to Tony Bennett, whose casual, swinging vocal style may have mildly influenced Negbaur in the womb. Negbaur is a gifted guy, and he would have found a way to shine even without electricity, never mind master classes.

Negbaur's voice was described as "suave" by an Austin weekly (where he won a prize for the best blues song at the Austin Songwriters' Group contest), and his delivery is relaxed and unforced. His piano stylings are crisp and deft, and his lyrics and witty and hip - a fine combination of talents splendidly showcased on Let me explain. And what if Negbaur had preceded Connick, one can't help but wondering. Would we be comparing Harry to Gary? Probably so.

All but one of the songs on Let me explain are Negbaur originals - the lone cover being Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." Negbaur's justifiably proud of his interpretation - a lean, taunting piano/bass/drums arrangement into which he sneaks a few "O-say-can-you-see?" bars.

On "Just About Enough," Negbaur bitches about a girlfriend who spends his money, makes his house a mess and leaves him with a Visa bill. "I've had just about enough," he sings, "so I'll take just a little bit more. . . but this is the last time." Right.

"Three Blind Nights" gave me a little whiplash; at first I thought a poltergeist had sneaked a Dave Brubeck disc onto my changer. But it's just Negbaur taking liberties with "Three Blind Mice" and with hints of "Take Five" and "It's a Raggy Waltz," borrowing from one of the jazz world's all-time great innovators. . . Go listen to the man. Buy a CD.



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