Volume 6 - Edition 2
Winter 2006
Trail MIX John Oddo
"My Inspiration" Linda Pets FAN-tastic Reviews Contest Fan Corner


Linda and John Oddo

"I had heard about John Oddo many times over the years from people in this business whose opinions I respect. Little did I know that we would one day work together. He is a true musician in every sense of the word and one of the finest people you could ever meet. I met him at the right time."

 

 

John Oddo is a musician with tremendous versatility, as comfortable conducting and arranging for a jazz trio, as he is a symphony orchestra. He holds a Masters Degree In Jazz Studies from the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, which left him well prepared for the intense career that awaited him.

Soon after John graduated from Eastman in 1978, Woody Herman grabbed him to become an integral member of the legendary Thundering Herd. During his three years with Woody's band, he contributed numerous arrangements and original compositions.

In 1983, John met Rosemary Clooney who admitted to having "stolen" him from Woody Herman following a recording project that featured her with the band. John remained at Clooney's side for more than 18 years as her musical director, pianist, and arranger. His credits include work on 20 of her recordings as well as countless live performances and television appearances. Rosemary Clooney said of John, "I think he is the most versatile, the most sensitive to my own personal needs (as a singer) he knows my strengths and weaknesses and he respects them both."

John is currently working as musical director for several artists: Michael Feinstein, two time TONY award winner James Naughton, and Debby Boone. Among his past credits: Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Stan Getz, Bob and Dolores Hope, Maureen McGovern, John Pizzarelli, Diane Schuur, Toni Tennille, and Linda Ronstadt, for whom he was musical director at the acclaimed Hollywood Bowl World Cup Concert in 1994.

In 2005, John accepted the position as musical director for Linda Eder. He orchestrated and conducted Eder's highly successful duo tour with Michael Feinstein, which was followed by a week of concerts that featured Linda with The Boston Pops.

John's keyboard skills can also be heard on Rod Stewart's upcoming release of material from The Great American Songbook. Other recent recording projects include: composing and performing the theme music for "Our Town" starring Paul Newman (Masterpiece Theatre and Showtime) and the recent NBC TV special, "Scott Hamilton & Friends" for which he served as conductor, pianist and arranger. John also produced and arranged James Naughton's CD: IT'S ABOUT TIME, as well as arranging material for a 2005 Concord Records release by Debby Boone entitled REFLECTIONS OF ROSEMARY (a tribute to Rosemary Clooney).

 

Here, for the readers of THE VOICE, John talks candidly about his life and career.


VOICE: You began your career with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd after graduating with your Masters Degree in Jazz Studies from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Can you share some of the highlights of the three years you spent with the band?

John Oddo and Rosemary Clooney

JOHN: We worked an average of 46 weeks a year, mostly one-nighters. We would travel 300 to 400 miles a day on a bus and then play the same night, performing an average of six nights a week. We played all kinds of venues including concert halls, hotels, jazz festivals, high school gyms and shopping malls. We would play concerts as well as dance jobs. Most of the work was in the United States… we played every one of 48 states during my three years with the band. Occasionally, we would go overseas. I recorded three albums with the band and did quite a bit of the arranging for those albums. Because we were traveling most of the time, a good deal of the writing for these albums was done while riding the bus.

VOICE: How and when did you meet Rosemary Clooney? How did she manage to "steal" you from Thundering Herd?

JOHN: I first met Rosemary when I was working with Woody at a club in Manhattan. Rosemary was working at Westbury Music Fair that week and came in to the club to hear Woody after one of her shows. She evidently had been talking about recording an album with the band. We did, in fact, record that album in the summer of 1983, and I wound up being the arranger for that album. Rosemary really didn't "steal me away" from Woody. I had been with the band for three years, and I had already given my notice to the band. At this time of her life, she had been doing a lot of dates with a group called "Four Girls Four," which was basically four singers doing a portion of their act. The performers were people like Margaret Whiting, Helen O'Connell, Rose Marie and Martha Raye, among others. Different singers would come in and out of this show at various times. At the time that we recorded the album with Woody, Rosemary was starting to book more solo dates on her own. She had been working with the musical director of "Four Girls Four" pretty much out of convenience for her dates because he had already been writing and conducting for her with the act. She really needed someone who understood her own musical needs.

VOICE: What are some of your favorite projects you worked on with her? Do you remember one very special performance together?

JOHN: We recorded about 18 or 19 record albums. The early ones were in a songbook format, the music of a specific composer or lyricist. Later on she got away from that format and started to record albums with a certain "theme." I think my favorite performances with her were at a cabaret called "Rainbow and Stars," which was atop the GE Building in Rockefeller Center. We worked there for about ten years, always for the whole month of February. We did ten shows a week for four weeks. The clientele for the most part were really sophisticated New Yorkers. For the late shows, you would get people coming in who were performing on Broadway as well as some of the struggling actors and actresses. When the room wasn't full, they would waive the cover for the late shows. They would come in after their shows. For this reason, Rosemary felt that she could perform the kind of material that she felt she couldn't perform in other parts of the country. She didn't want to do the so-called "hits." She felt that she didn't have to prove herself as a singer anymore, and she wanted to concentrate on performing material that really reflected on where she was in this point in her life. You would easily see why she was the greatest interpreter of the traditional American song.

VOICE: You have also worked with Rosemary's daughter-in-law, Debby Boone. What projects did you work on with her?

John Oddo on stage with Michael Feinstein
and Rosemary Clooney

JOHN: I've known Debby almost as long as I've known Rosemary. Over the years, we did several Christmas tours together along with Rosemary and Debby's four children. We recently recorded a CD entitled REFLECTIONS ON ROSEMARY, which was a tribute to Rosemary.

VOICE: Can you tell us about some of the work you have done for TV?

JOHN: I performed on many television shows with Rosemary Clooney including several appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning. I was the Musical Director for "Demi-Centennial," Clooney's 50th anniversary special for A&E. I have performed and written arrangements for Clooney as well as Linda Ronstadt and Michael Feinstein for appearances with the Boston Pops for PBS and A&E. I wrote arrangements and conducted for "Scott Hamilton & Friends," a special for NBC that featured Scott Hamilton and many other ice skaters.

VOICE: Can you tell us a little about other current projects and performers you are working with now?

JOHN: I also work with James Naughton, an actor who happens to be a very good singer. His show is probably the most eclectic that I have ever worked on. He sings everything from "Stardust" to Randy Newman rock and roll.

John Oddo on stage at Carnegie Hall

VOICE: When and how did you meet Linda Eder?

JOHN: We briefly met a few times when I was working with another artist who was sharing the bill with Linda.

VOICE: What was your reaction the first time you heard her sing? What song was it?

JOHN: I don't remember which song it was, but what I DO remember was how struck I was with the amazing vocal gift that she has and her flawless sense of pitch.

VOICE: What are your responsibilities as Linda's musical director? And can you explain why sometimes Andy Ezrin fills this role?

JOHN: I have to conduct and play piano for her performances. When one of her musicians cannot make a particular engagement, I have to approve of the substitute musician. I meet with Linda to go over new material that she may want to perform, and I make suggestions about material as well as arrange and orchestrate for her. Andy Ezrin fills this role on occasion when I am not available.

VOICE: Please tell us about the experience of working closely with Linda and Michael Feinstein on their "Two For The Road" show.

JOHN: We put that show together rather quickly, about a month from our first meeting to the first performance. We all met at Michael's town house in New York, spending a whole day going through possible songs and laying out routines for arrangements. Linda and Michael are both very "fun" kind of people, so even though we had an enormous amount of work to do, I saw that it was going to be a very pleasant experience. I then started working on orchestrating the pieces that we had chosen. We met in Los Angeles again a few weeks later for a few days to work out the balance of the show.

VOICE: Do you find that Linda and Michael have a special chemistry that makes their partnership a perfect one? How do they complement each other?

JOHN: As I said in the previous question, being the "fun" type of people that they are, there is an easy rapport between them and that carries over into the audience. It makes the audience feel like they want to spend time with them.

VOICE: What was your reaction the first time you performed with Linda and experienced the enthusiastic reception she receives from the crowd?

JOHN: It's wonderful for singers to have such loyal fans, and Linda has got some of the most loyal fans of any singer that I've worked with.

VOICE: Do you have a favorite Linda song?

JOHN: It would be hard for me to pick one single favorite because I've heard her sing many different kinds of things, but more importantly I'm realizing that Linda has tremendous versatility with whatever she sings. In the brief time that I have been with her so far, I've experienced her performances of everything from Broadway and Pop to her performances of material from The Great American Songbook as evidenced from the Judy Garland material that she has been doing recently. She does it all so well and it is clear that she has a place in all of these genres.

 

John Oddo on stage with Linda at Carnegie Hall

 

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