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."
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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).
for the readers of THE VOICE, John talks candidly about his life
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
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
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.
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.
What are some of your favorite projects you worked on with her?
Do you remember one very special performance together?
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.
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
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.
Can you tell us about some of the work you have done for TV?
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.
Can you tell us a little about other current projects and performers
you are working with now?
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
When and how did you meet Linda Eder?
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?
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.
What are your responsibilities as Linda's musical director? And
can you explain why sometimes Andy Ezrin fills this role?
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"
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?
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?
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?
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.
Oddo on stage with Linda at Carnegie Hall