Vocalist Steve Lipman wants you to join him in rediscovering the depth and beauty of what he considers is a musical centerpiece of the nation; a collection of song fondly known as Great American Songbook. Like fine art, the music of the Great American Songbook has withstood the test of time, remaining alive, vibrant, and contemporary. For Steve, the works of the Songbook connect with the soul that yearns for love and cries at heartbreak. He aims to deliver this music to a new generation of listeners who are surely aware of the Songbook but have yet to appreciate its depth and beauty. In pursuit of that goal, Steve’s latest project, a full-length album titled Hats off, is his most ambitious effort yet, featuring artfully scored brand new arrangements of classic songs, featuring a seven-piece band with three horns and a full rhythm section.
Steve’s dream of becoming a vocalist began at a very young age as he was sifting through his mother’s 78 RPM records. She had quite a varied collection of talented vocalists, but it was soon clear that Steve’s favorite was Frank Sinatra. To Steve, Sinatra was the ultimate storyteller. He communicated the essence of life to each individual listener like no singer had done before. Today, Steve retells the stories that Sinatra and so many other extraordinary artists have explored, conjuring the essence of the great masters of the Songbook without impersonation. The arrangements and performances are creatively transformed, leaving no question in the audience’s mind as to who is on stage touching each of them, personally, with unforgettable stories.
Steve, a dentist by trade, launched his career as a vocalist when a patient, Rod Warner, brought Steve into the studio and produced his first album, a primer of Sinatra standards titled There’s a Song in My Heart. His sophomore release, a full-length album, Ridin’ the Beat, reached deeper into the Great American Songbook with handpicked melodies that formed a dynamic set. That album, co-produced by Warner and bassist/arranger Dan Prindle, ultimately went on to receive excellent reviews from the critics and public alike. It charted #2 in the College Music Journal’s Top Jazz Adds and enjoyed considerable radio play.
Since then, Steve has pursued an ambitious performance schedule with headlining dates throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. He has also devoted several years to working with noted singer and vocal coach Eric Arceneaux and is in intense training with Connecticut’s Lady of Jazz, the incomparable Dianne Mower. Today, Steve is providing cutting edge health care at his successful dental practice and now has released his third, most ambitious recording project yet, Hats off, which was recorded live in studio and features arrangements by Dan Prindle and Nick Borges; production by Nate Christy and Dan Prindle; direction by Nat Christy and engineering and editing by Nate Christy and Mark Alan Miller. As Steve recently said in an interview, “The creativity demanded by a fluid jazz arrangement is no less than what is required for the art of dentistry. Ultimately, it’s the people in my life who I care for, perform to, and connect with that I find most important; far beyond any material achievement, it’s that interconnection between human souls which excites me and keeps me driving forward.”
Jazz vocalist Steve Lipman is back with his third full-length album since 2011. His debut album There’s A Song In My Heart and his second Ridin’ the Beat (2012) were both well-received albums and now the highly anticipated Hats off is poised with a new emphasis for Lipman. The album is a collection of well-known standards from the Great American Songbook deftly blended with more recent works. Listeners will enjoy a diverse and eclectic musical palette featuring everything from the reliable “You Make Me Feel So Young” to the hidden gem “The Coffee Song,” and from musical theater hits like “The Sound of Music” to Leonard Cohen’s brooding “Dance Me to the End of Love” all paired to beautiful, newly scored arrangements. The album is capped with an ingenious shout-out in both spoken word and music highlighting the antithetical political resurgence and normalization of racism on the national stage, an issue that according to Lipman has “consumed” him. “It’s about the things that are most important in life,” Lipman said recently. “It’s about all kinds of love: romantic love, love for family, love of country; love for all of what constitutes the intricate wonders of humanity”.
The album’s title, Hats off, is the perfect moniker to describe the album’s various layers of meaning for Lipman. In the most straightforward sense, the title describes a figurative tip of the hat to all the great artists who brought the songbook to life, from Frank Sinatra to Cole Porter. But more importantly, the album represents a point of arrival in Lipman’s journey as a musician. Looking back on his early days as a vocalist, Lipman describes his former self as one who yearned to emulate the greats. At the time, he would even perform wearing a black fedora in homage to Sinatra. Since that time, Lipman has studied voice and music theory intensively on a quest not only to find his own voice as a singer, but also as a storyteller. Hats off marks Lipman’s arrival as a vocalist in his own right. Today, he is still paying tribute, but the hat is off. He is no longer an imitator. He has found his soul in his music.
Hats off was co-produced by Lipman, Dan Prindle and Nate Christy of Six String Orchestra Productions in Easthampton, Massachusetts. In addition to co-producing the album, studio-owner Dan Prindle, known in Connecticut for his work with the well-known Hartford-area band Rane, contributed most of the arrangements for the album, with one notable exception coming from Nick Borges, a Grammy-nominated trumpet player who also played on many of the tracks of the album. Producer Nate Christy’s previous credits include a production credit on the track “Waves of Love,” by Al Jardine and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, work with Royston Langston of Space Hog on his track “Love Is a Curious Thing,” and engineering on Larry Dvoskin’s Life Is Strange album. Dvoskin, a frequent collaborator of Christy, is a four-time Grammy nominated musician, songwriter, and producer whose songs have sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.
Hats off is an album in the truest sense. Not simply a random collection of songs, Hats off is an artistic medley woven within an underlying vibe reflecting Lipman’s inner passion. Hats off is an album with a soul; it is an album which truly has something quite pressing to say.