It all happened one week before a private donor appreciation event.
Musician and bandleader Bill Cunliffe was scheduled to perform with a vocalist and eight-piece band. Months of planning had gone into making sure the event would be as successful as possible, and announcements were distributed electronically and via snail mail by the Night is Alive Productions team. The vocalist had provided recordings featuring herself and Bill on Youtube and other social media as a preview for the honored guests. All was going according to plan.
The event was highly anticipated by all involved, as it was their first time in Akron, Ohio and the first time Oliver Nelson’s music would be performed, reimagined, almost 50 years after its original release. Tunes like “Stolen Moments” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYl2HZ9_Zvs&list=RDyYl2HZ9_Zvs&start_radio=1&t=0) would have new life breathed into them by Bill and his group.
On the Thursday one week before the donor appreciation event, I was out of town on vacation. As Bill’s manager, I left town believing all was under control and running smoothly. He had booked his musicians and vocalist. The music was written and scored. The venue was secured. Little did I know, Bill was leaving messages on my cell phone with unhappy news: the vocalist was sick.
By the time I received the voicemails, it was Saturday and the date of the gig was inching closer. During times like these, one of my most important managing mottos comes into play: “It is not what you know, but who you know and what they think of you.” Bill, being a two-time Grammy award winner, is highly respected in the jazz world, and musicians are (thankfully) eager and willing to join him on the band stand. He reached out to fabulous vocalist Jane Monheit, who graciously agreed to perform on short notice and flew in on the red eye the evening before the event.
A testament to her world-class musicianship, Jane performed cold with barely any preparation and wowed the crowd with her poise and grace. Bill and the musicians in the band were also exceptional, their flexible professionalism leading to a successful and enjoyable event. In the days following the performance numerous phone calls from audience members flooded in, praising the ensemble and conveying heartfelt appreciation for Jane’s willingness to take over for the vocalist who fell ill.
Though such star power usually warrants multiple gigs, this particular group was only scheduled to perform two nights. The second performance was a ticketed event in Cleveland which completely sold out thanks to the Night is Alive Productions team (“We fill the seats!” Use Night is Alive Productions for your events: https://nightisalive.com/).
“Who is singing tonight?” is not a question you want to ask in the moments leading up to a gig. But if you do your job well and work with good people who are willing to help you out in a pinch, the rest will follow. In the end, the music itself is what brings people together and builds a loyal following. The music is the reason why we are here.
Read more about Bill’s tribute to Oliver Nelson here: https://billcunliffe.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/a-tribute-to-oliver-nelson-and-%E2%80%9Cthe-blues-and-the-abstract-truth/)
For more information about Managing Director Kathy Moses Salem and Night is Alive Productions, please visit our web page (https://nightisalive.com/) or contact directly via phone.
Article by Kathy Salem, Managing Director, Night is Alive
Revised and Transcribed by Elizabeth Carney, Content Editor, Night is Alive