Friday, December 18, 2015

Clifford Bell Finds the Corner of Jazz and Cabaret is a Perfect Avenue for Philanthropy

Have you heard about “Season’s Greetings from the Corner of Jazz and Cabaret”? Set for Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the popular E Spot Lounge in Studio City, California, all the buzz on Facebook promises an unforgettable evening of holiday music, jazz standards, and Broadway entertainment. Producers Tiffany Bailey and Clifford Bell are hosting a benefit in support of vocalist Kiki Ebsen’s nonprofit, The Healing Equine Ranch, in Agoura Hills. In an interview exclusively for, Clifford Bell told us how plans for this incredible evening happened.

It was classic Hollywood kismet, where the universe reached out to a central LA jazz force, to begin a conversation with a cosmic Broadway and cabaret producer. Together they agreed that audiences love bringing jazz and cabaret together for an evening. Discussion ensued, and cosmic brilliance happened. Oh, and the elegant, talented actress and singer, Lee Meriwether, is the surprise angel, who floats down to top the beautiful musical Christmas tree they’re decorating for just one night. Only in Hollywood.

Cathy Segal-Garcia is known best as an acclaimed jazz performer, recording artist and international vocal leader and mentor, whose inspirational workshops have launched many career artists. There’s a reason she was nominated for the Jazz Del Corazon Award this year (“or Women Movers-and-Shakers of the L.A. Jazz scene”). Clifford Bell, replete with an impressive Broadway and cabaret producer, talent managing, and entertainment resume, brings all his talents to the discussion.

Then, Cathy immediately recommended Kiki Ebsen, whose recent concert evenings singing jazz in New York and Los Angeles have actually started to overarch her golden reputation as a first-call touring singer and musician. The conversation is then even more animated and exciting, exploring the possibilities.

Ultimately, the organizational plan for the event went safely into Bell’s hands, as his other credits include producing and directing beloved TV and film actors from Broadway stages and performing arts centers. If you’ve never heard Peter Gallagher (“The Good Wife,” “The O.C.,” “While You Were Sleeping”) sing, you’ve missed out. Actress, comedienne, and Golden Globe winner, Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Married with Children”), a powerful vocalist, and her band, toured the country under Bell’s direction.

Conversation continues as Bell brought in his newest friend to co-produce; Tiffany Bailey is a talented singer whose career work includes the nonprofit “Autism Speaks.” Bell staged his Thanksgiving-themed “Giving Thanks” concert in November for Bailey’s favorite cause. Now picture what happens when the conversation ramps up. These “discussions” resulted in what promises to be an unforgettable night of music at The E Spot Lounge, a popular intimate venue above Vitello’s in Studio City.

(Photo by Greg Spurlock: Tiffany Bailey, Al Garcia, Dori Amarilio)

So, when Clifford heard Kiki Ebsen’s album, “Scarecrow Sessions,” produced by David Mann, a comprehensive jazz tribute to the music of Buddy Ebsen’s (her father) career, he invited Kiki to join him in discussing her music career as well as her equal passion, The Healing Equine Ranch, and its mission. His interview with Kiki on his “Cabarabia” podcast on Global Voices Broadcasting with Dec. 14 can be heard here.

And now a few words about the surprise. One of Buddy Ebsen’s premiere television roles was his show, “Barnaby Jones,” co-starring the lovely and talented Lee Meriwether. From the day she earned the title of Miss America, until present day, Meriwether has remained a consummate talent and beauty, still very active in films. A colleague of Bell’s had worked with Lee in an independent film that garnered close to 20 Film Festival awards. And, she’d been a recent guest on Clifford Cabarabia podcast. Said Bell, “She’s every bit as lovely as she always was, sweet as she can be.” So, with the upcoming event in the works, Clifford was determined to surprise Kiki. He invited Meriwether to the event in support Kiki’s The Healing Equine Ranch, she immediately accepted, saying, “Absolutely, I’d love to join you all.” The chance for Kiki to be reunited with Lee, such a dear friend and respected colleague of Buddy’s —in support of The Healing Equine Ranch—was destined to be the brightest package under Kiki’s Christmas tree this season. Thus, it’s appropriate for Clifford to be wearing that Santa hat you see in the profile photo!

(Photo: Kiki Ebsen and Lee Meriwether, Photo by Greg Spurlock)

Bell also shared about the talented singers assembled for the evening: “Francesca Amari is a very celebrated cabaret performer, who just had a very successful engagement in New York, with her tribute show about Gilda Radner, celebrating the 40th year since Gilda began her career on “Saturday Night Live.”

Valerie Swift Bird has had a career in musical theatre and dance, played Cassie in “A Chorus Line” and she’s transitioning into a career in jazz. “She’s very beautiful and she’s going to do a really fun set.” L. Aviva Diamond is “a newcomer to the jazz scene and she’s fascinating, because she has a background as an award-winning network TV journalist. She was an on-air reporter, tracking down amazing stories, and she’s had a lot of success as a fine artist. About a year ago, Aviva began classes with Cathy, and this show will be her very first jazz debut. She will be wonderful!”

(Photo Right: Greg Spurlock Photo, Tiffany Bailey and Valerie Swift Bird.)

Daniel Friedman is a friend of Tiffany Bailey’s, Bell explained. “He is a talented cantor who has this gorgeous voice. And, he spent 20 years on Broadway with a wonderful musical career, including “Cats” and “Les Miserables.” He is an amazing singer.”

“Cathy also invited the lovely and talent vocalist, Karen Celeste Kruz to join us; Karen and Al Garcia (our bass player for the evening) are a very popular musical duo here; they will both get raves!”

David Lucky is a “very celebrated singer/songwriter who is coming up the ranks. Virtually every review of his performances reflects his style as being a very young Randy Newman in many ways. He plays the piano and writes really brilliant, funny, moving songs; he’s a really hot property in the cabaret world,” Clifford allows.

Bell said, “What’s so exciting to me is the hybrid of the theatrical, lyric-driven cabaret people and the jazz people, where the emphasis is most on the musicianship , compared to the lyrical aspect, while focused on the tempos and the rhythms. That’s a very broad distinction, but I’m always a big proponent of mixing it up, because the two forms really do belong together, and many will appreciate the chemistry among the group of people we’ve gathered for the evening.”

Bryan Miller is one of the “kings of the piano bar world in Los Angeles and has been so for many years here. He and his partner, singer Gilmore Rizzo, are fantastic together and have a lot of fun, crowd-pleasing entertainment-oriented shows that are vastly popular here!”

Alexandra Theodora Spurlock, at age 18, has just completed her first semester at the Boston Conservatory of Music. “She’s a young woman who I’ve had the privilege of working with since she was 14 years old. An exceptional talent, the best way to describe her is as a powerhouse belter. That says it all.” “This ingénue will raise the roof,” Bell assures.

Of Kiki Ebsen, Bell shared on his Facebook page, “Her CD, ‘Scarecrow Sessions’ is so exquisite and heartwarming that I spent the evening wrapped in its spell…beautifully conceived and executed; first class vocals, arrangements, and production.”

Photo by Greg Spurlock: Clifford Bell, Kiki Ebsen, Lee Meriwether

Now, making all the great music happen behind this vocal collective, the band for the evening includes musical directors Mark Massey and Steve Rawlins on piano. Bell said, “Both are extraordinary guys with big jazz chops. Rawlins tours a lot with Steve March-Tormé, Mel’s son, and he’s written several books on jazz arranging; he’s very accomplished.” Mark Massey, I met through Karen about six months ago, and he is unbelievable, jaw-dropping great.” Dori Amarilio on guitar is truly outstanding; and we’re delighted to welcome Al Garcia on bass for the first time this evening.” “Tom Bowe has been on drums on virtually every show I produce; he’s just the best,” allowed Bell, who will direct the entire evening.

Set for Sunday, Dec. 20, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., at The E Spot Lounge in Studio City, upstairs in Vitello’s Restaurant. Click here for VIP and general admission ticket info. If you don’t have tickets yet, you’re going to want to move quickly. The mission of The Healing Equine Ranch, “to educate, empower, and enlighten people through the natural interaction with horses,” is definitely in good hands, and can be located in Studio City, California on Sunday night, at the corner of jazz and cabaret.