Michael Garin isn't your typical lounge pianist. On any given night, listeners at New York City's Roxy Hotel (where Garin holds court weekly), are treated to a surprising stew of everything from Madonna to Michael Jackson, and George Gershwin to REO Speedwagon. Garin, who's also an award-winning composer, has more fun playing solo piano than just about anyone we know. That's why he's this week's TALENT SCOUT discovery.
NAME: Michael Garin
HOMETOWN: Greenbelt, Maryland
MUSICAL TRAINING: Regular old piano lessons as a kid. I play mostly by ear (it saves a fortune in sheet music)!
FIRST GIGS: Pianist/singer on the Auto-Train, and a “Song and Dance Man” at the Great Adventure Amusement Park
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Slim Gaillard, Merle Haggard, Earl May, Keith Richard, Hank Jones, Ali Hafid, Smokey Robinson, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Mabel Godwin, Theodore Bikel, Menachem Dworman, Erroll Garner, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Gilbert and Sullivan, Richard Rogers, Bernard Hermann, Nino Rota, Otis Redding and Hank Williams.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Idir, David Oistraikh, Enrico Macias, The Revivo Project, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Carlos Gardel.
INSTRUMENTS PLAYED: Mostly piano with a brief stint as a bluegrass guitarist. It was a valiant effort that failed.
MY BIG BREAK: Musical Directing the Late Night Cabaret at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Also, getting a show I co-wrote and co-starred in, Song of Singapore, produced Off-Broadway. (It was a Drama Desk Award winner) Imagine Count Basie meets Spinal Tap and you get an idea of the show!
LATEST ALBUM:Hey, Look! It's Michael and Mardie! It was recorded with my wife and music partner Mardie Millit. We're going for a "Steve and Eydie meet The Three Stooges" kinda thing.
FAVORITE KEYBOARD GEAR: When I played Middle Eastern music at the Cafe Feenjon, I played a Moog Rogue and a Korg Delta. I don't think they're made anymore, but they were great fun and I wish I still had them.
STRANGEST SONG REQUEST: I was asked to play, “Unforgivable” by Natalie Cole. I was also challenged at [famed New York City restaurant] Elaine’s when I played there. A guy asked for a Lebanese pop song called “Diqqi Ya Rababa.” and I knew it. Go figure!
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT PLAYING SOLO PIANO: Not splitting the tips. Seriously, the ability to switch gears as the moment necessitates. But I do miss the fun of other players.
WHAT’S NEXT: I'm co-producing a revival of Song of Singapore. I’m also writing music and lyrics for a new musical based on Ed Sorel's bestselling book, “Mary Astor's Purple Diary.”
ADVICE: I once asked Earl May, the great and sorely missed bass player, about working with Dizzy, and Cab Calloway, and Lionel Hampton. He said, “They were entertainers first.” And that's been my motto. Make the music the best you can, but put on a show. That and if possible, take dance classes or just go dancing. It changes the way you play because you musicalize your whole body and become more aware of how you appear to the audience.
Find out more at www.michaelandmardie.com