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Influences: Michael Feinstein, interpreter of the Great American Songbook

February 1, 2011 | 11:36 am

Feinstein One of the premier interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Michael Feinstein will appear Saturday at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where he will perform a program of classic American songs and jazz numbers with a focus on film music by the likes of Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse and Irving Berlin.

While in Southern California, Feinstein also will perform at a private event celebrating the 100th birthday of the late former President Ronald Reagan, whom the singer considered to be a personal friend. “The Reagans were the first people to invite me to the White House,” he said. “They were two people of whom I was very fond despite our political differences. Nancy is still a great friend and a wonderful lady.  She stands up for what she believes in, in opposition to what the Republican party leaders say.”

Feinstein recently took time from the Las Vegas taping of his ongoing PBS series "Michael Feinstein's American Songbook" to discuss some of the performers who have influenced him throughout his career.

Rosemary Clooney (singer): She was a close friend and a neighbor to Ira Gershwin, for whom I worked. She had a God-given voice that communicated in a heartfelt way. But it was her intelligence most of all -– the words are what make sense of the music, and she was a great interpreter of text.

Fred Astaire (singer-dancer-actor): I met him one time. He was the most natural interpreter of song even though he hated his own singing. He owned prints of his movies, but he excised the songs from the footage because he detested his own voice.

David Raksin (film composer): He  wrote the score to "Laura," whose title song Cole Porter said he wished he had written. He was a superior mind in Hollywood, a master orchestrator and film composer. He was just dazzling until the day he died at the age of 94.

Oscar Levant  (comedian and pianist): He was one of the most brilliant wits. He had a lot of great lines, like when he said that he used to know Doris Day before she was a virgin. That sort of wit was wonderful.

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Michael Feinstein is in the national treasure business

-- David Ng

Photo: Michael Feinstein. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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