Bobby McFerrin at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
(Published: January 18, 2012)
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts celebrates its 31st season with an EXCLUSIVE New York City appearance by a true genius of vocal improvisation, ten-time GRAMMY® Award winner BOBBY McFERRIN on Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 8pm. Since the 1980s, McFerrin has amazed audiences around the world with his four-octave range and his capacity for improvisation on par with the greatest jazz instrumentalists. At the same time, the sophistication and soulfulness of his singing put him in a class all his own. His GRAMMY-winning "Don't Worry, Be Happy," the first a cappella song to reach #1 on the charts, became an anthem across the globe. McFerrin is a true vocal explorer who creates a cross-cultural amalgam of jazz, pop, R&B, classical and world music that celebrates the power and infinite possibilities of the human voice as he makes the audience a part of the creative process. Bobby's "greatest gift to audiences may be transforming a concert hall into a playground, a village center, a joyous space (The LA Times)." What Bobby McFerrin does is not an act; it's spontaneous invention. Bobby's legendary solo vocal performances have dazzled audiences all over the world and sent them home singing.
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts is on the campus of Lehman College/CUNY at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468. Tickets for BOBBY McFERRIN on Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 8pm are $45, $40, $25 and $10 tickets for Children 12 and under, and can be purchased by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718.960.8833 (Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm, and beginning at 12 noon on the day of the concert), or through online access at www.LehmanCenter.org. Lehman Center is accessible by #4 or D train to Bedford Park Blvd. and is off the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Major Deegan Expressway. Low-cost on-site parking available for $5.
Bobby McFerrin was born in New York in 1950 to two classically trained singers. His father, Robert McFerrin Sr., was the first African-American male to perform solo at the Metropolitan Opera. When Bobby was eight, his family moved to Hollywood, and he took up the clarinet and later the piano. Immersed in music, his ears pointed in every direction, from Count Basie and the jazz singers to Verdi, Duke Ellington and George Gershwin, to James Brown, Led Zeppelin, and Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. He started a high school jazz band and continued to play piano in college. After graduation, he toured with various bands, cabaret acts and dance troupes. At age 27, while working as an accompanist in the dance department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, he realized he was a singer, and immediately landed a job at a hotel piano bar. In 1979, after moving to San Francisco, Bobby met his manager and producer of 30 years, Linda Goldstein, then a jazz singer and booking agent, who set out to create a niche for him within the jazz arena. His first big break came in 1980, when Bill Cosby heard him and arranged a performance at the Playboy Jazz Festival. The following year he was a hit at the Kool Jazz Festival in New York, which led to a contract with Elektra Records. His self-titled 1982 debut, featuring original compositions and covers performed with a full band, was well-received. Then, inspired by Keith Jarrett's solo jazz piano concerts, McFerrin decided he wanted to be onstage as a soloist. In 1983 he toured Europe and released some of the music from the German concerts as his next album, 1984's The Voice, the first solo vocal jazz album recorded with no accompaniment or overdubbing. On original songs such as the clever "I'm My Own Walkman" and radically rearranged classics by the Beatles, James Brown and Ellington, he astounded listeners with his versatility and resourcefulness, singing the multiple vocal parts himself, and filling in where the instruments would have gone, using his hands on his chest to provide percussion sounds.
Spontaneous Inventions, recorded in 1985 for Blue Note Records and for a video release (now on DVD), featured collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and comedian Robin Williams, who assembled with no rehearsal in the studio, in front of cameras. For the album, Bobby picked up his first two GRAMMY Awards. He won more GRAMMYs for his 1986 recording of "'Round Midnight" with Herbie Hancock and 1987's "What Is This Thing Called Love'" He was already selling out major venues like Carnegie Hall even before 1988's phenomenal hit, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." The album, Simple Pleasures, was itself a masterpiece. Shortly after its release, he began a second career as an orchestra conductor. On his 40th birthday, he made his conducting debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and went on to conduct dozens of the world's great orchestras. In 1994 he was named creative director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He never stopped singing, though, and in 1990 recorded Play, the first of two albums with Chick Corea. He also created Voicestra, a group of twelve a cappella vocalists that evolved over time into a purely improvisational vehicle. His 1990 CD Medicine Music featured Voicestra on two tracks.
Seven years later, Bobby and Voicestra came together again on the Sony Classical Circlesongs album, a meditative masterwork comprised of eight spontaneous improvisations based on African and Middle Eastern traditions. On 1992's highly successful Hush, he collaborated with celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma on a set of McFerrin originals and classical standards. His first fully classical recorded endeavor was 1995's Paper Music, which featured him both conducting and singing with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The following year he and Chick Corea met up again for The Mozart Sessions, bridging the worlds of jazz and classical with improvisations on the composer's works. He also teamed with the jazz fusion Yellowjackets on Bang! Zoom. His 2002 CD, Beyond Words, was an excursion through Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European influences with Corea, bassist Richard Bona and drummer Omar Hakim, and was also the title given to the Bravo Channel documentary about McFerrin. In 2010 Bobby released his first new album in eight years, VOCAbuLarieS, a collaboration with composer and vocalist Roger Treece, a longtime member of Voicestra. McFerrin has appeared in numerous films and television programs, most recently on NBC's The Sing Off. The subject of profiles on 60 Minutes and Nightline, he has appeared regularly on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and has sung the themes for The Cosby Show and Son of the Pink Panther. McFerrin continues to tour rigorously throughout the world.
Lehman Center is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council. The 2011-2012 season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, JPMorgan Chase, and through corporations, foundations and private donations.