to R 1st Row Kneeling: Jeff Prinz, Steve Moretti, Dan Parenti; L to
R 2nd Row: Doug Beavers, Albert
Alva, Rosemary Clooney,
Dave Scott, Jennifer Lovejoy; L to R: Back Row: Greg Saul, John Oddo, Matt Catingub, Thomas Marriott, Mike Olmos, Matt Cowan
Clooney, the Cat Pack and Magic
Magic can occur when a singer and the band behind her meld. When Rosemary Clooney matched up with Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack, she reveled in the idea that she was once again the eternal girl singer fronting a big band that knew what it was doing. The band members were young, they were dynamic and they could swing. To her, she said, they were her "new big band."
Clooney toured with the band, and then cemented the relationship with one of her best recordings, the Concord Jazz label release "Sentimental Journey," which won a Grammy nomination for best traditional pop performance. The CD included not just studio recordings but some of the live performances of Clooney with her new big band.
For Rosemary, it was going back in time, to her days singing as one half of the Clooney Sisters with the Tony Pastors band, when she and her sister Betty were the original "girl singers." Later, when asked to define herself, she eschewed fancy labels. She was just, she said, "a girl singer." Her audiences knew better. They knew she was "THE girl singer." The combination of nostalgia and work with a group of young and enthusiastic musicians made her relish her moments in front of the band and behind the mike. For audiences, it was a palpable connection between generations.
For their part, the young Cat Packers knew they were not only making good music. They were becoming part of an American legend; they were sitting under the glittering magic dust that falls on singer and band when everything clicks. The musicians were learning, whether they recognized it or not, from an artist who, as someone said long ago, had not just sung the standards but also set them.
Here are some of the Copa Cat Pack's remembrances of their time with their Girl Singer, THE GIRL SINGER, Rosemary Clooney (under construction, more to be added):
Matt Catingub "The Big Kahuna"
"As we all know we have lost a great friend, a great talent, and a great spirit. My wife Vicki & I got a chance to know Rose quite a bit and we found her to be one of the most incredible people we have ever had the honor of knowing. For me personally she was probably second only to my mother as one of the greatest musical influences in my life. I am so VERY proud to have been a part of her final contributions to the world of popular music and jazz. I will be missing her forever."
NOTE: Matt's mother is the great jazz singer Mavis Rivers.
Every concert she would look over at me with that special Rosemary twinkle in her eye and say "Hi Jennifer, how are you doing tonight?" I was on top of the world, I was on stage with Rosemary Clooney. She was so much to so many. She will be missed.
With the passing of Rosemary Clooney, I choose to share some memories and to celebrate her life.
One of the great benefits of playing with the Copa Cat Pack has been the opportunities to make music with the legendary singer, Rosemary Clooney.
Recording her "Sentimental Journey" CD was a kick because I had the fortune of watching her lay down some of the vocal tracks from inside the recording booth. Being a veteran, she just went for it on each take and it was an inspiration. The live tracks on that CD were from her very own Music Festival in her hometown of Maysville, Kentucky. The streets were filled with her friends and fans, and I could feel the love in the air. I think it was around this time that we had a little get together at Nick Clooney's home, if I'm not mistaken, after a concert. Rose and Nick told stories and the Big Kahuna's musicians jammed in various improvised combos. Just a bunch of friends hangin' out making music.
The most memorable highlight would have to be the 2 weeks performing with her at Feinstein's At The Regency in New York. She turned it on every night and we had no choice but to respond! She packed the place, and many of her well known friends dropped by. It was also in this period that the band backed her up on the Rosie O'Donnell show, with her singing the up tempo "Old Man River" at 7 or 8 in the morning! During the interview section of that TV show, her acknowledgment and support of the band was above and beyond the call.
I also don't want to forget the shows with Rose and Michael Feinstein together. Each show was different because they were able to improvise and reacted to the particular audiences. There were also shows in Las Vegas, the Westbury Music Fair in New York, and Hawaii, each with there own set of memories. Maybe the most telling story of her heart was her singing at the wedding of Steve (our drummer) and Amy. Now that story is one for the Grandkids!
This photo of myself and Ms. Clooney was taken last year late one night at a post-perfomance party, during our stint at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City. That week I met Rosie O'donnell, Tony Bennett, and Joy Behar from The View, among others. Everyone was clamoring to talk to Ms. Clooney, raving about her, and us band members got to be a part of all of it. I remember strolling around the VIP parties afterwards, talking to the famous jazz critic Gary Giddins, talking to Michael Feinstein, talking to Rosemary's son Miguel Ferrar, who I had just seen in the movie Traffic. It sure was cool to ride this Clooney wave.
Right after this picture was taken, as we were all winding down, feeling good about another great show, I found myself telling Ms. Clooney about my fiancee, who is a dancer, and that she went back to college, and how the required math courses were driving her crazy. Ms. Clooney told me to call her immediately. She wanted to talk to her.
So I dialed my fiancee in california (who is now my wife) and handed the phone to Ms. Clooney. I remember the feeling of seredipity, of love, of warmth as I listened to Ms. Clooney chat with, laugh with, and encourage my wife in her studies. Ms. Clooney has always been a huge favorite in my wife's family-- she was giddy with surprise and appreciation.
Ms. Clooney told my wife "tonight, before I go to bed, I will say a little prayer for you."
I remember thinking, "what a truly special moment this is!"
Thank you, Ms. Clooney.
I was introduced to Rosemary backstage before my first gig with her and the band in Westbury, NY. I was a little nervous and she grabbed my hand real tight and said "hi sweetie". Suddenly I felt like I was in my living room.
This is the kind of warmth that Rosemary brought to her audiences every night. She made everyone around her feel comfortable.
The only thing more amazing than her beautiful personality was her musicianship. The band rose to new levels playing behind her. I think we inspired her too.
I feel honored to have shared the stage with her. I'll miss her very much.
Words could never express how special Rosemary was to me. The funny thing is I didn't exactly start out on the "right" foot with her. The Copa Cat's first gig with Rosemary was in Stuttgart, Germany in the summer of 1999.
While we were on stage, Rosemary cracked a funny joke and I responded with a little drum "badda bing." Well, as Matt is looking at me with these HUGE eyes mouthing "NO", Rosemary responded (in front of 4000 + people) , "Oh, you think you're SO cute...." My stomach immediately dropped. After the show Matt informed me that she actually fired a drummer for doing that too much.
Needless to say, everything was fine at dinner after the show. She asked me if I was going to behave myself, and of course I said "YES!"
I had the honor of developing a close relationship with Rosemary. We always spent time talking before and after the shows. I remember our gig in Maysville, Kentucky, after we performed at the Rosemary Clooney Festival, the whole band went to Nick and Nina Clooney's house for a get together. We spent a good portion of that get together talking and sharing stories. I loved hearing the stories of her musical journies. Our two weeks at Feinstein's in New York was such an amazing experience. It felt like we owned the room when we were performing there. Our experiences with Rosemary in the studio were incredible. It was amazing to watch a true professional in the studio. She laid down her tracks with such grace. A majority of her tracks were done in one take to boot! She gave me so much inspiration and brought out some of my best playing, and most memorable musical experiences....for that I am blessed.
I remember the last gig we had with her was in November with the Honolulu Symphony. To be so close to her on stage and to watch her truly enjoy and love singing the songs and telling the stories is something that is so difficult to put into words. She was an angel on and off the stage.
I also remember one time when I was in LA for a short visit, Rosemary had invited me to come by her house for dinner. Here I am, this no name drummer, hanging out with one of the most influential and important musical icons. It still blows my mind.
She was also a woman who wasn't afraid to express her love to people. I witnessed it at every gig. She always took the time to talk to fans. She also expressed her love to me by singing at my wedding last June. As I heard the news this past Saturday, I took out the photo I have of Rosemary, myself, and my wife Amy from that special day. I will cherish that day till the day I move on to that higher place where I will be able to meet up with her again. Thank you Rosemary for all the love and memories you have given me. Every time I travel, I have and will always keep the Rosary Beads you gave me. I will always love you Rosemary, my road mom.
With heartfelt love,
Note: Rosemary sang "The Promise," with Matt Catingub playing piano. That is the same song she sang at her children's weddings. At the reception, she surprised everyone and sang with the Copa Cat Pack. She told Steve that he had to get up there and "work" if she had to. So, he actually got to play with Rosemary at his wedding as well. (He'd gotten a sub to play for him for the day.) She sang "Ol' Man River", "Hey There", and "Our Love Is Here To Stay". The wedding was June 3, 2001 at Cline Cellars Winery in Sonoma California.
The opportunity to play with a woman with the stature and the grace of Ms. Clooney was simply a blessing. She was from the classic school, every time she performed she lit up the stage and made it known that she was truly the greatest interpreter of lyric of our time. Her beauty was without parallel off the stage as well, she treated us (the Copa Cats) with the utmost respect, dignity and generosity (Through countless delicious Italian gourmet meals!). She was also forever encouraging, she personally encouraged me to continue honing the craft of arranging, and that one of her most important and closest former musical directors and arrangers, Nelson Riddle, would be proud.
So cheers to the great Rosemary Clooney, with whom I will always hold my memories and experiences to be among my most dear. We will eternally miss you, Rosemary.
Rosemary Clooney was the greatest performer I have ever seen, and the greatest musician I've ever had the privelage to work with. Thinking back through the past few years, I have nothing but fond memories of Rosemary, and the fun we had. My favorite shows we played were the 1999 Jazz Open in Stutgart, Germany, and of course, the concert in her home town Maysville, Kentucky 2001. I'll never forget that sweet woman. She made me smile.
"She's got Class"