Swinging Kenny Colman keeps on hustling for gigs
The Georgia Straight, June 21, 2001
At times Kenny Colman feels like Rodney Dangerfield. The Vancouver singer has done it all and still can’t get no respect. At least not in his hometown.
Colman’s biography reads like a who’s who of show business: discovered by Sarah Vaughan; first gigged in Las Vegas on a bill with Lionel Hampton and Della Reese; sang for all the talk-show hosts, from Steve Allen to Johnny Carson to Merv Griffin; recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra; befriended Frank Sinatra; opened for the likes of Redd Foxx and Lenny Bruce; and played such hot spots as Monte Carlo, New York, and Cancun.
So why does this man have to hustle for gigs just like the next guy?
“I’ve done all these shows and I’m still looking for work in my hometown,” Colman says, on the line from his False Creek home.
The veteran jazz singer will be splitting the bill at the Vogue with Dee Daniels next Monday (June 25) in a show that promises to be a bit different for his Vancouver fans.
“Most people, when they see me in a club, it’s more intimate,” he says. “They’re drinking and having a good time, where in a concert, you can focus in more on a ballad and the attention is there. It’ll be a different thing for people to see me in a concert setting. I think they’ll enjoy it. I’ll be able to tell stories about my past and all that.”
Colman says part of the reason that he doesn’t get more work is a lack of venues in town. The Cellar is an excellent jazz club with a great feel, but doesn’t often book singers. So Colman continues to play casinos and lounges around the world while sitting in on the gigs of friends around town just to keep his chops up.
“Getting a continuous roll is always the hardest thing,” he says. “Getting that back-to-back continuation, you know? Always looking for gigs is a hardship. It’s hard on the wife, but you have to go with your work.”
Colman, while not in the vein of a scat-singing singer like Mark Murphy or Kurt Elling, considers himself a jazz stylist whose motto is Less Is More.
“I think the word jazz sometimes scares people off,” he says. “I surround myself always with jazz players because they’re the best players. And I always deviate from the melody and create melody, which is improvisation. I consider myself a very swinging, jazz-oriented-type singer. I can swing. And you can’t teach somebody to swing, you know? I mean, Vic Damone can’t swing. There are very few singers who can swing.”
Still, that and a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee. But as long as the 60-something crooner can still swing, he’ll continue knocking on doors.
“I still feel very strong and still driven,” he says. “If there was going to be a book about me, Driven would be the word. I still have the same energy and drive as when I was 28 walking up and down Second Avenue in the Village looking for gigs.”