He’s a wedding singer: Crooner gives traditional songs new popularity

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    By Meredith Young

    With spring in the air, diamond rings on fingers and Martha Stewart WEDDINGS magazines off of the shelves and into the clutches of brides-to-be, choosing a song is another of the many things to do in preparation for the big day.

    The trend for receptions is to hire bands instead of DJs to add the elegance and sophistication that everyone would like to believe somehow existed in the past. But some brides want the musical time machines the classics offer without the expense and limitations of live bands.

    One of the top five first dance songs in Martha Stewart WEDDINGS magazine is “The Way You Look Tonight,” along with Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.”

    Versions of “The Way You Look Tonight” have been recorded by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr. and have appeared in movies such as “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

    The theme song from 1991’s “Father of the Bride” offers another version of this classic with an upbeat rhythm and blues feel.

    “We knew we wanted a heartfelt version of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ for the scene when Martin first sees his daughter dancing with her new husband,” Steve Tyrell, who has produced music for Linda Ronstadt and LL Cool J, said to the Houston Chronicle.

    After singing in “Father of the Bride,” Tyrell received hundreds of letters from around the world asking him where they could buy his CD, he said.

    “It was nice to have so many people calling about the work I’d done on those films, but it didn’t seem like enough to build a whole album around,” Tyrell said to Lip Service magazine.

    After listening to friends’ and family’s encouragement to record a CD, Tyrell said, “I had a great idea to make ‘A New Standard’ and tip my hat to the great national treasures who are still alive.”

    Guest appearances include Harry “Sweets” Edison, who performed with Frank Sinatra; Clark Terry, Duke Ellington’s trumpeter; Toots Thielemans, harmonica genius; as well as Joe Sample, Louie Bellson and Plas Johnson.

    The Lantern said, “The making of the CD was similar to the making of a historical preservation document. The solos in the songs are played by the original drummers, trumpeters, trombonists, and musicians who played in the 30s and 40s for artists such as Gershwin, Sinatra and Holiday.”

    Network magazine said, “Tyrell sings a collection of standards with a stylistic and graceful swagger that brings a bygone era firmly into the present more efficiently than even your favorite scrapbook.”

    Tyrell said the music was written specifically for the younger generation. He wanted music that was “cross-generational,” that college students and grandparents alike could enjoy, he said.

    “In a world of black-tie jazz, Tyrell is a T-shirt and sports coat kind of guy, a neighbor you might see waving over a picket fence one day, securing a music deal the next,” said Megan Dickerson of the Daily Bruin.

    Tyrell’s CD began to gain momentum when the owner of the posh Los Angeles-based restaurant, “The Ivy,” began to sell Tyrell’s CDs. Woody Allen, Sophia Loren and Burt Bacharach are among Tyrell’s fans.

    Tyrell describes his music as a pop version of “The Buena Vista Social Club.”

    He said, “I wouldn’t consider myself a jazz artist. I’ve always played rhythm and blues the most; however, the best is music that can appeal to everyone,” Tyrell said.

    “He’s a man who only wants to perform the standards if he can add something fresh and innovative, and then only if he can bring a little of the pas along for the ride,” Dickerson said.

    Tyrell’s music has been featured in “Mystic Pizza” with Julia Roberts, John Grisham’s “The Client,” “Dudley Dudright” and numerous TV series.

    His version of “Georgia On My Mind” premieres in the movie “Hanging Up,” with Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Meg Ryan.

    He worked on some of the music for Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do” as well as for movies “Blast From The Past” and “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.”

    Although Tyrell played in bands while growing up in Houston, he told the Daily News, “As I got into producing, (me) as an artist kind of faded into the background.”

    Releasing “A New Standard” in 1999 at 50 years old, Tyrell said, “Right now I’m very into my album. I started as an artist and (will) spend the middle of my life helping other people. You don’t know how much you love it until you do it.”

    Tyrell is promoting what he calls “my own artistic statement” on the first international tour of Borders stores.

    Tyrell’s advice to college students is to “follow your heart. If you know in your heart you want to be involved in music, you have to go where the action is.”

    Tyrell called the entertainment business “the rejection business,” saying, “You have to be driven. It’s a tough thing, but a wonderful life to express yourself artistically.”

    For brides-to-be who are still wavering as what song to seal their vows to, “There’s an elegance about these songs that just doesn’t exist in pop music today,” Tyrell said to Daily News.

    To review Tyrell’s music or to see his tour schedule, go to www.stevetyrell.com.

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