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Landau croons and swoons his way to the Pops

Album recording session


Read this article online: www.Metro.US

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. croons and swoons his way to the Pops

The winner of “America’s Got Talent” has been keeping busy.

A.D. AMOROSI

When Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. won NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” five years ago, he had no idea that he’d continue on with his arsenal of good time swing and emotive, clarion vocal skills. He loved standard jazz classics by his heroes, Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and was simply happy to keep their legacy alive.

Album recording session

Album recording session

But then again, Murphy Jr. never though he’d make it out of a Michigan car wash where he sang Sinatra tunes to his co-workers. Fast forward to the present, and not only has he released a debut album, “That’s Life,” that hit No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz chart, a Christmas album —”Christmas Made for Two”— and an autobiography (“Landau: From Washing Cars to Hollywood Star”), he readying his third album for 2017 release with holiday shows on the horizon.

You won “America’s Got Talent,” but are you a competitive fellow with everything you do?

Music is too pure to be competitive about. I just want to entertain, and that show was a great vehicle for it. I have never been competitive in regard to singing at all. Throwing basketballs, running fast; those things I would compete in. Also, I think that everybody can sing, you just need the right opportunities.

Well, looking at basketball and running for a moment, that takes training. Did you train your voice to do what you wish, or was it – is it — natural?

Life trained my voice, whether it was me being funny with my friends or me chatting in-between dance steps. That said, you couldn’t go in unprepared. I’ve been booed during open mics. My family booed me – but that trains you too; that and singing in church, old age homes and such as I have since I was three-years-old.

Man, that’s a tough family. You’re not singing conventionally easy stuff to begin with – it’s mostly jazz, big band, and Tin Pan Alley standards, to go with your own soulful compositions at a time when so many people your age go for pop or hip-hop. What was that challenge like?

As a normal urban black kid, I grew up listening to rap and pop in West Virginia; from Sugarhill Gang to Cyndi Lauper to the Oak Ridge Boys. By the time we moved to the big city, more of what was popular hip-hop on the radio became my steady diet. But this genre – the standards – was something I liked from childhood. I sang Bing Crosby every day, just joking with my friends.

Yet, it’s not like I could be Bing Crosby. Or Frank Sinatra. Imagine sounding like Sinatra, looking the way I look? But it worked. I think this genre chose me. The music is pure and timeless so it became natural. I have to say too that my friends would crack up listening to me do this – they like me, never took it seriously.

So when did that change? When did it get serious?

I worked for this car wash dealership in Michigan, and my boss came into the washroom one day when I was singing. He told right then, ‘You should not be working here.’ He took me to a club in Oakland County Michigan to a room full of people for some open mic, and the room just got quiet when I sang. That was the turning point I guess. He made me know that I had something. It took me a minute to get it, because I was 30. I weighed my options— am I going to be a successful rapper at this age, or do I stand a chance crooning?

So when you’re writing you own stuff, what are you going for?

That same pocket, vibe and feeling that I get when I’m singing Cole Porter or Nat King Cole; that’s my thing. You don’t fix something that’s not broken. So my song like “Come Home to West Virginia” – I hope you get the same feelings that I have about that place, that easy country road feeling and the same feeling you would get from a Frank Sinatra song where he’s singing about New York or Chicago. Plus, there is always a great, stylish arrangement – the bigger the better.

Which reminds me: you’re fronting the Boston Pops coming up for New Year’s Eve, the biggest of all orchestras.

When I travel, we usually play with between 12 and 22 pieces. The Pops though? That’s big. They’re a down-to-earth crew and I think they appreciate what I do, that I love the old standards. I did a walk-on with the Pops when they did a Motown set last year, and they said ‘why don’t we just put you on the books for New Year’s’? Guess I knew my plans a year early.

If you go:

Tues. Dec. 27, 8 p.m.
Highline Ballroom
431 W. 16th St.
$20-$35, highlineballroom.com
Wed. Dec 28, 8 p.m.
Sellersville Theater
24 Maple Ave. Sellersville
$25-$39.50, st94.com

Sat. Dec. 31, 10 p.m. with the Boston Pops
Boston Symphony Hall
301 Massachusetts Ave.
$51 -$140, www.bso.org

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Journal entry – Performing with The Boston Pops

A heartfelt journal from Landau’s tour pianist and band director Duane Flesher!

Boston Pops backstage

Monday 6 Jun 16

Boston 6 Jun 16 thru 9 Jun 16

As I got into my car, backed out of my driveway and began my trip to the airport to catch the flight to Boston, I asked myself “Is this really happening?” While going through security at the airport, the feeling struck me that this wasn’t like the other times I had done this same thing; getting on board an airplane to go play a show with Landau. And even though every show is special, this time we would be performing as part of a world class orchestra.

While attending school at Berklee College Of Music and living only two blocks from Symphony Hall, I had walked by the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Not even once did the thought occur to me that one day I would be blessed with the opportunity to actually perform with them, much less have them play two arrangements I had written for the occasion.

The flight to Boston with a brief layover at Washington Reagan Airport went off smoothly and Landau and I got to our hotel about 11:00 P.M.

 

Tuesday 7 Jun 16

We got to sleep in, much unlike Burke, Landau’s manager and Glenn Leonard, formerly of the Temptations, who was also appearing with Landau. They had to catch a 6 A.M. flight from Miami, FL in order to make an 11:30 sound check with the rhythm section.
After grabbing a quick lunch, we reported back in at the hall for rehearsal. The other members of the rhythm section made me feel right at home and it went off without a hitch. At one point during the brief run through of the songs, the Maestro asked Landau how he would like a certain section played and he very graciously said “ Ask my pianist and music director how he wants it.” He could not have paid me a better compliment.
After the rehearsal, Landau and I walked around the Back Bay area, just

taking in the sights and me having flashbacks of the two years I spent here. We later ran into Burke and the three of us treated ourselves to some fine dining, courtesy of the local Wendy’s carryout. Ah, the good life of being on the road.

 

Wednesday 8 June 16

Day 3 of the trip. The day of the actual performance. This is usually the hardest day of being on the road because basically there is nothing to do but wait. All the preparation for the event is done and you just hang at the hotel in your room until the car comes to pick you up to take you to the venue.

And my expectations for the day were right on target. A long day of waiting and finally the time arrives to meet in the lobby of the hotel and take the short ride to Symphony Hall where we are greeted at the door by our hostess who escorts us to the dressing rooms downstairs for a little more waiting. After about a half hour of jokes and stories from Glenn about life on the road with the Temptations, we are taken upstairs to our respective stage entrance areas, where we can actually watch the orchestra playing, via closed circuit TV monitors. Finally it is time to take the stage and the conductor gives us the downbeat. After the eleven bar intro by the orchestra, the bass players begin the signature opening to My Girl, and the crowd erupts in applause. I again had to ask myself if this was really happening. We closed out our portion of the concert with Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, with the audience giving a thunderous applause when Landau and Glenn did some fancy “Temps” footwork, and then on the final chorus……well, let me just say that I am not completely sure, but I would bet that Landau just might be the only singer to do the “Moonwalk” on the stage of Symphony Hall.

 

Thursday 9 June 16

Up early to pack for the trip home. We meet in the lobby mid morning to catch our respective flights at Logan Airport. Landau, Glenn and I leave for the airport with Burke due to leave a few hours later. We had heard several good reports about the concert and are looking forward to the return trip to the Tanglewood location in September and another opportunity to work with the Pops. Our return trip was without any problems or delays, the only panic moment being when I was standing in the parking garage at Yeager Airport, not having a clue where my car keys were. Again I say, “ Ah, the good life of being on the road.”

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Landau to Perform Twice This Summer with the Legendary Boston Pops

For Immediate Release:

Contact Jessica Lloyd (703) 589-8960 or jessica@allenmediastrategies.com

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. to Perform Twice This Summer with the Legendary Boston Pops!

Boston PopsAmerica’s Got Talent winner and Columbia Records artist Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. will perform on June 8th and September 3rd with the legendary Boston Pops.

“I can’t tell you what an honor this is for a guy from Logan, West Virginia who was washing cars and singing in the wash bay just a few years ago, to be singing with the Boston Pops!” said Landau. “And it’s extra special that my Music Director and pianist Duane Flesher will get to join me on stage for this. We’re like two little kids who can’t believe this is happening to us!”

rockport-dinner-dance-20150828212622-2-resizedFlesher has had the honor of working with The Boston Pops on composing Landau’s arrangements for both performances.

“As a young man, 19 years of age, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I did a six-week evaluation course at Berklee College of Music in Boston,” says Flesher. “But my schooling was delayed by a four-year stint with the 661st Air Force Logistics Command Band. After finally arriving at Berklee, I lived just two blocks from Symphony Hall in Boston, passing by it quite frequently, even getting to attend a few concerts there by the Pops. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that someday I would play there, much less play there WITH the Pops. It is an incredible honor to get to perform with them and have this great orchestra play arrangements that I have written. I am truly humbled by this opportunity, and so thankful to Landau for making this dream come true,” said Flesher.

Glenn LeonardOn June 8th, his friend and former Temptations lead vocalist Glenn Leonard will join Landau on stage for a special Tribute to Motown at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 35th annual “Presidents at Pops,” widely acclaimed as one of the largest and most successful corporate benefits for the arts in the United States. The performance will be hosted by show business legend Mandy Patinkin. Patinkin is known for his Patinkin Headshot-bwTony Award-winning roles in Evita and Sunday in the Park with George, and as an Emmy and Golden Globe winner for his work in Chicago Hope and Homeland. The star of dozens of movies, Patinkin is perhaps best for his portrayal of Inigo Montoya in the timeless classic The Princess Bride. The New Yorker says: “Mandy Patinkin is in the business of show stopping… He is a musical force of nature!”

On Saturday, September 3rd, keith-lockhartx345Landau will return to Boston to join the Pops in presenting “Dancing Under the Stars” at the Koussevitzky Music Shed in Tanglewood. Conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra will perform with Landau for “Dancing Under the Stars,” a festive, toe-tapping performance to close out the 2016 season in style. A dance floor will be set up on the lawn for this crowd-pleasing evening of memorable melodies and big band standards, with Landau up front vocalizing the timeless crooner classics. This show will mark the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra’s first-ever performance at Tanglewood and will be one of the hottest tickets of the summer.

Tickets for both performances are currently available online at: www.BSO.org or by calling the Boston Symphony Orchestra at (888) 266-1200. For information about corporate gala ticket packages or single tables, please contact Mary Thomson with the BSO at mthomson@bso.org or (617) 638-9278.

 

About Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. has performed around the world since winning America’s hearts and season six of NBC TV’s America’s Got Talent by the biggest margin in the show’s history. Landau’s debut CD “That’s Life” for Columbia Records was a chart topper, the book about his amazing life story “From Washing Cars to Hollywood Star” spent several weeks at #1 on the Amazon.com Jazz Books chart, and his “Christmas Made for Two” CD was a hugely successful fundraising vehicle for the Children’s Home Society in his home state of West Virginia, where to date he’s helped raise over a million dollars for Mountain State charities. Landau’s third CD is due for release in late 2016, and his tour stops will once again take him around the world. Landau’s dozens of media appearances include The Today Show, the Tom Joyner Show, Wendy Williams, CNN, Fox and Friends, and ESPN.

 

About the Pops

Affectionately known as “America’s Orchestra,” the Boston Pops is the most recorded and arguably the most beloved orchestra in the country, beginning with the establishment of the modern-era Pops by Arthur Fiedler and continuing through the innovations introduced by John Williams and the new-millennium Pops spearheaded by Keith Lockhart. In 2010, with the 125th anniversary season, the Boston Pops reached a landmark moment in a remarkable history that began with its founding in 1885. Fours years earlier, in 1881, Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra, calling its establishment “the dream of my life.” From the start he intended to present, in the warmer months, concerts of light classics and the popular music of the day. From a practical perspective, Higginson realized that these “lighter” performances would provide year-round employment for his musicians.

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