Tag Archives: Rondi Charleston

Jazz Singer Rondi Charleston Influenced by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

Songstress Rondi Charleston sets off on a club tour next week that will take her to cities including Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta “and a few other places,” she says –with stops at a number of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camps for seriously ill children as well as hospitals all along the way.  She plays L.A.’s Catalina Jazz Club on June 30th, for instance, and the next day will perform at the Painted Turtle Camp.

Charleston has been neighbors with Joanne Woodward and the late Paul Newman in Westport, CT for years, and “They’ve had a big influence on me when it comes to how to live a good life.  They’re my role models,” she explains.  “What I try to bring to the kids is a moment of relief of their pain and suffering.  Music really can uplift the spirit and the body as well.  Recent neuroscience shows the connection between music and the brain is very powerful.  It can help restore speech to people with Parkinsons, lift people out of depression, calm and help organize thoughts for people who have Alzheimer’s.”

 The contemporary jazz singer, who has won rhapsodic praise fromThe New York Times, Downbeat and an array of other music publications, was formerly a network news producer for Diane Sawyer’s “Prime Time Live” and other shows.  Now, with her Motema “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”album, she’s being extolled as a songwriter with great storytelling gifts as well as for her plush voice.  One example:  “Land of Galilee,” which tells of a true incident of harmony in the Middle East.  Small wonder her work is en route to being used in a film, details of which will come later.

IN ANOTHER LIFE:  Speaking of fabulous female jazz singers, casting is underway now for Melinda, “a dazzling ’40s jazz singer with an incredible voice” in Harry Connick, Jr.’s Broadway revival of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.”  Interesting.  If you’ve been following plans for this new version of the 1965 musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane (which, of course, begat the 1970 Barbra Streisand film), you know big changes have been made.  Instead of a woman who has esp and is a reincarnated spirit, now the central character is a man — a male Barbra? — who was a female jazz singer in a past life.  (Harry is playing his/her psychiatrist, Dr. Bruckner.)  The show is  being produced by Tom Hulce with a fall debut planned.   

HE’LL BE THE JUDGE:  Cedric the Entertainer is trying his hand at a new untitled courtrom comedy, with a pilot soon to be shot.  It has the King of Comedy as a judge in that unique land of the crazy, the weird and the artistic:  Hollywood.

Jazz Singer Rondi Charleston Inspired by Ex-Boss Diane Sawyer

Jazz singer-songwriter Rondi Charleston will be heading out on a nation-wide spring concert tour in support of her exquisite new “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” album in coming weeks.  When she plays New York, she’ll very likely be seen by Diane Sawyer — her one-time boss.

The remarkable Charleston entered Juilliard at 16 and earned BM and MM degrees, then  went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism at NYU.  Her job as a producer on Sawyer’s “Prime Time Live” followed.  Charleston began moonlighting in jazz clubs while continuing to work on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program.

“I started writing when I was working for Diane Sawyer,” she recounts.  “She would constantly remind me, ‘Just tell the story…Tell the story.  Don’t get sidetracked.’  Those are words to live by whether it’s journalism or lyric poetry.

“We’re still friends.  It’s wonderful. We’re still very much in touch.  She is such a great lady, one of my role models.  Not only is she a brilliant journalist, she’s also very kind and supportive,” adds Charleston.  “She actually came to see me at a little jazz club in the Village a couple of times. She sat right in the first row and sang along.  She loves to sing.  The next day at work she said, ‘I came to the show because I like you and I like working with you.  You didn’t tell me that you could really do this.  I don’t want to lose you, but you could really do this.'”

Sawyer knew what she was talking about, as evidenced by Charleston’s latest album — original songs and covers that, according to her,  “have a collective theme about time.”  They range from the familiar title track to Charleston’s inventive treatment of Bobby McFerrins “Freedom is a Voice” (she had the lyrics translated into Zulu), to her own “Land of Galilee.”  The latter was inspired by her family’s witnessing of an extremely rare snowfall in Jerusalem that brought out children and parents, Jews and Arabs alike, to play with abandon in the snow.

“If I can remind people of the preciousness of time,” says Charleston, “if I can lift people’s spirits in times of sorrow and and distress, I’ll have done my job.”

I LIKE YOUR FOR YOURSELF:  Celebrities have always had to deal with questions about people in their inner circle and their motivations for wanting to be pals.  Reality TV has upped the ante exponentially, providing even bigger motivation for capitalizing on relationships with the famed, for everyone from stars’ assistants to former spouses — Camille Grammer being the latest.  And the trend is getting bigger.  Casting notices went out last week for yet another major cable network’s “docu soap” about affluent celebrityish women in the L.A. area.  Being sought are women married to celebs or previously married to celebs, or living with celebs.