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Artist Profiles

Ray Passman: Down The Publisher's Way

By Published: November 13, 2008
One of Passman's major activities now is seeking out new jazz singers. Over the last decade he has, for example, uncovered award-winning vocalist Diane Hubka, co-producing her first album—Haven't We Met? (Self Produced, 1999), which was nominated for a 1999 Jazz Award for best recording debut of the year. Hubka later recorded You Inspire Me (Self Produced, 2002), with a group of famous guitarists including Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini, Paul Bollenback and John Hart. Passman has also assisted singers Ann Carlini and Jane Irving. Irving is an Australian-based singer and scat vocalist whose Beams (From The Top Entertainment, 2007), has received impressive reviews around the world.

When asked if he would name his favorite melody writers, at first Passman replied "All of them." On reflection, however, he nominated Jerome Kern as his favorite tune composer. He continued, "The greatest melody writer was Jerome Kern. That's not to demean Gershwin and Harold Arlen—they looked up to him. They all loved Jerome Kern." As if by design, the opening notes of Kern's "Long Ago and Far Away" drifted from the bandstand of the restaurant: "There you are!" said Passman.

That is the third songwriters' vote for Kern as best melodist that this writer has collected, having asked the same question of legendary poet/songwriter Rod McKuen ("Seasons In The Sun," and the sole writer of A Man Alone (Reprise, 1969) for Frank Sinatra); his vote for best melody writer was also Kern.

Ray Passman / Diane Hubka

Passman is also a major advocate of legendary songwriters Dave Frishberg—whom Passman calls unreservedly "the best songwriter today"—and also Passman's colleague and friend Bob Dorough. Frishberg's songs have been recorded by Michael Feinstein, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, Mel Torme and others. Dorough, who has been noted as an important influence on Mose Allison, co-wrote the huge smash for Mel Torme, "Comin' Home Baby," (1962), and his lyric to a Miles Davis composition became "Blue Xmas."

Both Passman and Dorough collaborated on lyrics for Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'N You," which became, with lyrics, "Wouldn't You?" Passman has even written a song entitled "Frishberg and Dorough," co-written with and recorded by singer Meredith d'Ambrosio.

Passman ended by revealing his suggestion of what life is about. He said, "Life is about avoiding traps." Referring presciently to the now increased awareness of the psychological effect of nurture (as opposed to nature) on an individual, he added that "parents may not have their act together."

Another way to put it might be to say that knowledge, whether communicated by parents or from another source, is king. It therefore appears unlikely that Passman will be allowing any more public domain royalty payments—to Rollins, or anyone else—to dilute his copyrights!

Photo Credit
Claudia Burgard

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