Potential for local update in third graph; w/art TK
Spider Saloff savors every page in the Great American Songbook, but she’s dog-eared the George Gershwin chapters. “What’s unique about Gershwin is that his music crosses so many genres,” says Saloff, a Chicago cabaret-jazz singer who’s toured with a Gershwin revue since 1996. “He composed more classical pieces than other songbook writers. Elements of his songs aren’t typical of a lot of popular music from the ’20s and ’30s. They definitely have a hardcore jazz influence, which is why they lend themselves to so much different interpretation.” Saloff has celebrated Gershwin’s contributions before in Springfield, Ill., performing with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in 2004. She’ll return Saturday with “Gershwin: The Celebration” in its original form, a jazz trio. “It features some of the material we did with the symphony, but other material as well,” says Saloff, who will sing, among other numbers, “Somebody Loves Me” and, with accompaniment by Grammy-winning tenor saxophonist Eric Schneider, “S’Wonderful.” “There’s such a wealth of material that’s really been fun because the concert gets to evolve. You take things out, move things around, and there are still some very rare pieces you wouldn’t normally hear in a Gershwin concert.” Saloff, whose first name is a college nickname that stuck for professional use, befriended pianist Leopold Godowsky III while she lived in New York in the early 1990s. He’s the son of Frances Gershwin Godowsky, who was sister to George and Ira Gershwin. After Saloff presented a concert commemoration idea for George’s work, the Gershwin family sanctioned it for a 1996 Gershwin Centennial celebration. She received access to rare pieces written by George, misplaced for years and rediscovered by Ira in 1983. Saloff also helped create a new arrangement for one rediscovered tune, “Lonely Boy,” meant for inclusion in “Porgy and Bess,” but cut for a reprise of “Summertime.” “Gershwin’s songs remain so fresh and unique in a way that they could have only come out of America’s melting pot,” Saloff says, citing combinations of Russian, Jewish and black influence. After many years in New York, Saloff and her husband moved to Chicago when she got a long-term booking at the now-closed Gold Star Sardine Bar. Enamored by Chicago’s atmosphere and music scene, she stayed. Saloff also has hosted “Words and Music,” a syndicated, weekly radio show that profiled different composers of American standards, and she recently released her sixth studio album — “Like Glass,” which features her first recorded forays into original material. “As an artist, I’ve evolved, and wanted to stray from just being known for interpreting the American songbook,” says Saloff, who viewed her voice as brass instrumentation to complement string work on “Like Glass.” Although the concert’s devoted to Gershwin, Saloff may throw in her own work if the mood strikes. “I like to think of the concerts I do as very approachable, not only for people who are aficionados of this kind of music, but new listeners and young listeners as a fun way to get introduced,” she says. Nick Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Read his blog, Unpainted Huffhines, at blogs.sj-r.com.