"So informal was this set that after just a couple of pieces DeFrancesco looked out into the audience to seek an artistic collaborator: He found one in veteran Chicago singer Marc Pompe, who leapt to the stage to offer moody, slower-than-slow account of the standard "My One and Only Love." ...The man's phrasing - at once ultra-sophisticated yet easily accessible - helped save the day."
Chicago nightclub singer and pianist Marc Pompe returns to the Old Pueblo Grill, 60 N. Alvernon Way, on Sunday, Nov. 25, for a showcase gig with the Pete Swan Trio at Swan’s weekly evening of jazz and a jam.
Anyone old enough to appreciate supper club and restaurant entertainers before rock ‘n’ roll took over will appreciate Pompe’s skill as a saloon singer with that offhand and intimately rueful personality you don’t hear much anymore.
As Randy Freedman wrote for Chicago Jazz Magazine: “Pompe is every inch an original. He has a breezy, don’t-take-me-too-seriously-unless-I-want-you-to style that suggest an earlier jazz era, but is relevant to the here and now.
“Pompe can swing hard or can bring you sensitive phrasing and tempo to highlight the beauty of a lyric. Sometimes he does both within the very same song. Few other artists can match his variety of musical skills and imagination.
“Some vocalists may experiment with a new song the first few times they perform it, but eventually settle on one interpretation which makes them feel comfortable and seems to please their audience.
“Pompe seems to regard each new performance of a song the way a great painter does a fresh piece of canvas, and seizes every opportunity to re-examine and re-interpret melody and lyrics as they sound at the moment, in that room, with those instruments and those musicians, and tweak them as he pleases. No two performances are the same, and a careful listener can always find something new and different each time they hear him.”
The music starts at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, at the Old Pueblo Grill, 60 N. Alvernon Way. No cover, no minimum.
Vocalist Marc Pompe has performed with bassist Dennis Carroll, Alejandro Urzagaste (g) and George Flubas (d) long enough to be seamless. The addition of pianist Jodi Christian is special for Hi-Fly and he fits in like a custom made glove. They open with "Alone Together", a bop tune followed by the classic "Shiny Stockings". Marc places his voice among the instruments as a blended ingredient rather than a layer on top. The well-articulated words pop out with a message. This style makes repeated listening enjoyable. Pompe also allows his band to stretch out on numerous occasions. We enjoyed Jodie's solo on "Embraceable You", George on "Well You Needn't" and Alejandro shadowing Marc on "Hot House". This is a winner!
At the height of his long career, Pompe was not only one of the more popular male jazz vocalist in Chicago, but was in-demand nationally, performing dates at- among other venues- the prestigious Jilly’s in New York. Pompe left he limelight behind for a while to pursue a quieter, more peaceful lifestyle in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Upon his return to Chicago, Pompe found (as did many others) that the music scene had changed, and that it was more difficult for his to find work. Pompe could not regain the full extent of his previous popularity with audiences and club owners, though certainly not for lack of skill or effort: changing times had taken their toll.
Today, an ironic side effect of the current worldwide economic slowdown and one that actually favors musicians like Pompe- is that although there is less work overall for musicians in Chicago, vocalist who can accompany themselves on piano are in relatively greater demand than before. Despite the poor economy, Pompe appears regularly behind the piano of venues like Maggiano’s on Clark, McCormick & Schmick’s and the Chambers in Niles.
The opportunities to appear in a concert-like setting with other musicians are fewer for him, and made this performance at Katerina’s a relatively unique opportunity for Pompe and his fans.
Music highlights from this performance included “What Am I Here For” (Ellington and Hendricks) and “Old Chair” (Pompe), the songs sharing a Pompe specialty- the use of what he calls “a busy lyric.” These lyrics are pre-written by Pompe, which he incorporates into an existing song while improvising melody and tempo in a manner similar to “scat,” but using real words and sentences with meaning. Pompe has the annunciation and poise required to do this in a way that lets the listener hear and understand every word clearly, no matter how rapidly they are delivered.
Brown demonstrated his guitar skill by staying with Pompe no matter where his improvisational stylings took him. Other highlights where “Two For The Road,” Flying Down to Rio” and “The Best Thing For You Would Be Me”- all of which all featured great bow work by bassist Hayes.
Some vocalists may experiment with a new song the first few times they perform it, but eventually settle on one interpretation which makes them feel comfortable and seems to please their audience. Pompe seems to regard each new performance of a song the way a great painter does a fresh piece of canvas, and seizes every opportunity to re-examine and re-interpret melody and lyrics as they sound at the moment, in that room, with those instruments and those musicians, and tweak them as he pleases. No two performances are the same, and a careful listener can always find something new and different each time they hear him.
Pompe is every inch an original. He has a breezy, don’t-take-me-too-seriously-unless-I-want-you-to style that suggest an earlier jazz era, but is relevant to the here and now. Pompe can swing hard or can bring you sensitive phrasing and tempo to highlight the beauty of a lyric. Sometimes he does both within the very same song. Few other artists can match his variety of musical skills and imagination.
Singer Marc Pompe comes
to national attention with a tale to tell. Born
in 1936, he's been working as a singer for half
a century, based out of his native Chicago. But
aside from a few cassette releases, he's never
recorded, and hence not made much of a splash.
Writer Alan Bargebuhr heard Pompe during a one-night
stand in Pennsylvania and brought him to the attention
of Cadence-CIMP impresario Bob Rusch. Now neither
Bargebuhr nor Rusch are known for being easily
impressed, but they were of a like mind on Pompe.
The result is not one, but two releases: the Cadence-issued
You Must Believe in Swing, a 2001 recording split
between duets and tracks with Joey DeFrancesco's
trio, and Lost in the Stars, a 2004 session recorded
in CIMP's Spirit Room.
Opening the Cadence release with the title tune,
Pompe and friends practice what they preach. A
medium up-swinger, Pompe wastes little time moving
through his own witty lyrics into some scatting
over the changes of DeFrancesco's tune. The song
could very well be subtitled "announcing
Mark Pompe". He has a smoky tenor: a touch
nasal, a touch hoarse. He sounds his age, the
way a well-aged wine tastes its age. He has a
sure sense of swing, operating very much as a
member of the ensemble, rather than a singer with
rhythm background, and he never sounds like he
needs the rhythm section to show him how to swing.
When he addresses a song's lyricism, as he demonstrates
on "You Must Believe in Spring", he
knows how to turn a word, lengthen it or cut it
short to dramatize its meaning. He's not a demonstrative
musical actor. Rather his low-key, seemingly offhand
approach belies the way he inhabits these songs.
The program is well selected to show off the leader's
skills. The songs come from the jazz standards
book with some evergreens like "You Must
Believe in Spring", "Chelsea Bridge",
and "Masquerade", each of which he makes
his own. But he also makes his mark with the Marian
McPartland-Johnny Mercer collaboration "Twilight
World", a song he invests with a hard won
emotionalism. He and Roberts treat The Beatles'
"Eleanor Rigby" as a rollicking boogie,
an interpretation that proves unexpectedly fetching.
It provides an interesting contrast to the straight-ahead
swing of the DeFrancesco Trio.
Drummer Byron Landham powers the ensemble. The
band swings so hard, I shifted my attention to
Landham to hear what he was doing and he was doing...
nothing, or at least nothing spectacular. He relies
on the basics and a solid beat. At one point under
Henry Johnson's solo on "Gee Baby Ain't I
Good to You", he pushes along the guitar
with a double roll: Brrrr-bhap! Brrrr-bhap! The
organist and guitarist provide soulful solos that
complement the vocals and never lapse into organ
trio cliché. Roberts provides support on
"Twilight" as well as the Beatles tune
and guitarist Curt Warren duets with him on Strayhorn's
Warren is a member of the trio that found its
way with the singer to upstate New York to record
Lost in the Stars. Given CIMP's uncompromising
approach to recording and producing, a singer
needs to be confident to venture into the Spirit
Room. Vocalists are recorded just like instrumentalists.
The two microphones are positioned to get the
best overall impression of the entire ensemble,
not a vocalist with instrumental backup. Without
a mike to call his own or the safety net of post-production
doctoring, Pompe, like the other singers who have
dared to take the CIMP challenge, finds his voice
exposed, naked in both its glory and fragility.
The recording achieves a bracing intimacy. I sense
this is how Pompe hears the music in his head
and he delivers it unadulterated, forswearing
any effort to play it safe. The repertoire covers
an even greater range including classics from
the Basie ("Corner Pocket") and Ellington
("I Didn't Know About You" and "Do
Nothing Till You Hear from Me") books and
standards ranging from classic swingers like "Lucky
to Be Me" to Kurt Weill's aria "Lost
in the Stars". And he tackles a fistful of
jazz tunes, including Monk's "Well You Needn't"
and Joe Zawinul's metric puzzle "Rumplestiltskin".
He spins all these into musical gold, both in
reading the lyrics and providing some capable
scat. On "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me"
he delivers a sweeping, cogent statement—transcription
worthy, even—that sounds like it's referencing
trombonist Lawrence Brown's set piece solo as
much as the tune itself.
The "Lost" rhythm section of Warren,
bassist Nick Tountas, and drummer Rusty Jones
offers a looser, more open sense of swing than
the tight variety provided by the DeFrancesco
group. Warren offers up laconic guitar statements
that fit with the relaxed, four-guys-in-a-living-room
mood of the session. Pompe sounds not so much
as a performer as someone who's just doing what
Regardless of his age, Marc Pompe is hip in the
deepest, most profound way. He doesn't need the
trappings of style and youthfulness. Pompe stays
true to the music he loves, performing it with
the deepest love for its tradition and possibilities.
Vocalist Marc Pompe is primarily known within
his hometown Chicago and hasn’t recorded
a whole lot. Regardless, if you dig Jon Hendricks
or Mark Murphy, then Pompe’s hip and thoroughly
swinging persona should bring a sparkle to your
mind’s eye. With backing by Hammond B-3
ace, Joey DeFrancesco and his revved up trio,
Pompe handles a portion of the American songbook
with magnetism and assurance. As DeFrancesco,
along with guitarist Henry Johnson and guest soloists
dish out some irrefutably groovin’ solos
during the preponderance of these nicely enacted
You Must Believe in Swing is a CD that from start
to finish shows the polish of years of experience
and soul searching. Joining Pompe on this project
are Joey DeFrancesco (B3), Henry Johnson (guitar),
Byron Landham (drums), Curt Warren (guitar), and
Judy Roberts (piano).
I have long been a fan of Henry Johnson and the
Organ Express. If you haven’t checked them
out, it’s worth the night out anytime. Teamed
with DeFrancesco and Landham, Johnson really brings
it home. His soloing and comping throughout the
CD show high levels of virtuosity and taste. His
playing perfectly compliments DeFrancesco, who
has been shaping the way we hear the organ for
years. On a short list of B3 players that are
staples in jazz vocabulary, he’s right there.
To top it off, he’s a better bass player
than most guys working in Chicago, myself included,
that don’t have to comp or solo on top of
themselves. Judy Roberts: her playing on “Eleanor
Rigby” and “Twilight World”
complete this project, the latter being my favorite
cut on the CD.
As for Pompe, he has two things that most singers
don’t: his own style and good phrasing.
His treatment of each song is unique without losing
the tradition of singers that come before him.
I also must commend Pompe for his choice of repertoire.
There is a fresh blend of songs that work very
well together. As for the recording, I say that
a bad mix is like a fat man that stands up in
the front row of a club and talks politics at
the top of his lungs. For this project, the fat
man has definitely let the building. This CD is
right on the money with the blend each musician
brings, ant the blend the engineer put onto the
disc. All this together makes You Must Believe
in Swing easy to take for event the most Ritalin-withdrawn,
Nintendo-junkie, jazz fanatic-and you know who
It is simply a shame that more people don’t
know of Marc Pompe. So the word is: buy this CD.
Marc Pompe, born on November 3, 1936, a 1957 graduate
of the DePaul University School of Music, where
he majored in composition, has been making music
for well over half a century, ruminating at the
keyboard, turning the weathered pages of the American
Popular Song book and singing the literate lyrics
of the tunes therein- and doing so in partial
obscurity. Best known in his home town of Chicago,
somewhat less well known in New York, Toronto,
Pittsburgh, and St. Thomas, all stops along his
scattered and scatting way, where he has paused
to administer various dosages of bopperous melodic
grace, virtually unknown in the country’s
innards, in places where he has not personally
left actual shoe prints, he has plied his trade,
striving always to be true to himself and the
songs he chooses to sing. His previous recordings,
a cassette only release, and a CD on a very small
label, have not heretofore been widely distributed,
and so it is- due to the convergence of all these
factors- that the average hipster, from whose
goatees names like Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling
freely tumble, may not yet have heard of this
Pompe, much less heard him. That this CD will
serve to rectify this musical nescience it the
hope of Cadence Jazz, for the tracks herein will
make clear that he comes to us as an artist whose
vocal skills, simmering for half a century, are
fully realized and ready for consumption by that
portion of the jazz citizenry holding vocal jazz
delivered with taste, intimacy and intelligence
near and dear to its heart.
I first heard Marc Pompe in the Fall of 2003,
when he returned briefly to Western Pennsylvania
to appear in the bar of a hideaway restaurant
situated on a winding two lane road running up
out of Clairton, from a road paralleling the Monongahela.
(Love those Indian names.) He played piano and
sang accompanied by only his friend and drummer,
Spider Rondinelli, just the two of them making
lovely saloon music. The small bar area, not particularly
designed to accommodate musicians and their instruments
was cramped, to say the least. Marc’s back
was three feet form the ice making machine, which
every so often seated with friends, at a table
so close to Rondinelli that I could have eaten
my chips & dip off his Zildjian. But the songs
flowed, with bop interpolations and a certain
rueful air of nourish romanticism. Marc likes
to say his influences are Frank, Carmen, Joe Williams,
Jon Hendricks, and Ella, so when I got to talk
to him at a break, wisenheimer that I am, I said,
oh, sure, sure all the usual suspects…and
the he said, with a knowing grin…and I almost
forgot…Tex Beneke, too. And, damned if I
didn’t hear ole Tex. It’s in the understatement
of the lyric line, that way Marc has of implying
more than he’s willing to come right out
and say. You’ll hear it throughout this
CD, but if you want it in prime facie form, listen
to the way he sings, “she’s like a
breeze in the summer,” on “Here’s
To My Lady.” You may think you’re
making an inference, based on your own experience,
either with your doll, or (if you’re a doll)
your guy, but you’d be wrong. It’s
Marc’s implication … unmistakably
there. It all has to do with his artful phrasing,
his sense of time, his insinuative vocal approach,
and in a certain feeling of introspective melancholy
with which he informs ballads and songs which
deal with loves lost in time, and time lost in
the midst of love. I finally suggested to him
that I even heard some Joe Mooney in the ease
and relaxation of his phrasing, in the little
touches of parlando here and there. Marc nodded
to indicate that he knew to whom I was referring.
In his fifty plus years of making music, no doubt
he’s heard them all and had a chance to
assimilate what suits him best.
The bulk of this music stems from a 2/28/01 date
which finds Marc’s vocals emanating from
the brazier known as the Joey DeFrancesco trio,
whose precise personnel is listed elsewhere on
this insert. The opening “Swing” is
a Buddy DeFranco line, to which Marc has matched
a witty set of lyrics, establishing immediately
that his skills as a lyricist should be considered
part of the total package he delivers. The track
cooks, Marc offers some well-honed scat, and the
session takes off down the track under a full
head of steam, to make bop, blues and ballad stations,
all part of a thoughtfully paced and varied journey,
embracing an ardent reading of “Masquerade,”
as well as the sweet grit of “Gee, Baby…”
There are three sidetracks from the DeFracesco
material. On “Twilight World,” Judy
Robert’s euphonious piano is Marc’s
only accompaniment. Judy, a singer herself, brings
her vocal point of view to her nicely detailed
playing. Marc’s reading of the Johnny Mercer
lyric is both restrained and expansive, in that
way only singers who really love words can make
lyrics prosodic and poetic simultaneously. Well,
he names Sinatra, as one of his influences, doesn’t
he, so there’s really no surprise there.
“Eleanor Rigby,” again with Judy Roberts
at the piano, is an almost frenetic reading of
the “Beatle tune,” a more than slightly
obsessive descent into that yawning ditch with
Eleanor’s corpse, as witnessed by the wails
of “all the lonely people.” Judy Roberts
plays as one possessed. The third departure from
the main line, as it were, is “Chelsea Bridge,”
that venerable Billy Strayhorn line, to which
Marc has wedded a lyric full of rain and rueful
memory. The track finds a solitary Kurt Warren
playing “orchestral” guitar in support
of the vocal.
So, an abundance of proofs that the time has come
for this vocalist to be more widely heard- and
it’s past time for me to stop running my
word processor, and for you to take Marc Pompe
out for an aural spin, if you’re not already
doing so. Time to become better acquainted with
a jazz vocalist who deserves the full exposure
this CD offers.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll come
clean without any coaxing. Yes, I am personally
acquainted with Marc Pompe and, in fact, had something
to do with introducing him to the Cadence conglomerate.
I wrote the liner notes for his Cadence Jazz CD
(not yet reviewed) and find myself mentioned in
passing in the notes for this one. Does that mean
my objectivity is compromised? Well, what makes
you think I'm objective, anyway? Reviewing has
mostly to do with expressing opinions, particularly
in matters as abstract as music. So, now you know.
I don't think I've ever been present at a Pompe
gig, when he didn't slice through the smoke and
barroom clatter with a pointed reading of Randy
Weston's "Hi-Fly" (words by Jon Hendricks).
And here it is, without any indecorous distractions.
And, what a reading it is, with its wail of bereavement
in his urgent opening phrase - 'Old ways seem
to have passed us by' - and the exquisite bitterness
in the way he all but sneers the phrase 'acting
silly while they fly..... high.' Add some cookery
by the trio between his opening chorus and the
culminating close and you have a 21st century
dialectic, with bracingly strophic guitar from
Curt Warren, angular accents from Rusty Jones'
drum kit, nicely placed notes from Nick Tountas'
bass, and an existentially suspended ending.
All through the session, Marc sings as well as
I've ever heard him, with the strain of quizzical
melancholia and amiable bop blowziness so seemingly
integral to his Jazz personna. He seems to have
developed a way of reaching into the anatomical
innards of a song, using his voice as ballast
to the lyric, reshaping phrases as his grasp on
spontaneity flexes. This is never more evident
than in his speech inflected "Didn't Know,"
which he opens with the brief verse, after which
the naturalness of his exposition imbues the words
with just enough pain to confirm his honesty,
but not enough to tip the tale over into self-pity.
Curt Warren plays some lovely notes along the
"Thrill" allows ample room for fervent
soloing from Warren and Tountas and involves Jones
in some sprightly concluding trades. 'Nothing'
opens on the strength of the Tountas bass and
allows the bassist additional solo space, between
vocal choruses. The entire trio plays resourcefully
throughout the session, whether in the lee calm
of Marc's vocals or out in front, skimming the
rhythmic breakers. These are men who have worked
together over the years and know whereof they
fit in the collective scheme of things.
Marc scats on Monk's "Needn't," biting
off Mike Ferro's words with relish. Carmen sang
the same words on her Monk album (5/02, pg. 30),
which lists the song under the title, "It's
Over Now." Ferro also contributed the words
to Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," turning
it into something Darwinian, if not surreal. Marc
added the antic lyrics to Joe Zawinul's "Rumplestiltskin,"
and additional Pompe lyrics are present on the
Latin flavored "Dança," which
features a melody by Carol Coleman Novak. "Pocket"
is by Freddie Green, was in the Basie book for
many years. With Don Wolf's lyrics added, as they
are here, it's often listed as "Until I Met
The Pompe ballad style emerges on his aching readings
of Loonis McGlohon's "Wine" and Kurt
Weill's (words by Maxwell Anderson) haunting 'Lost.'
Marc's reading of the latter is guaranteed to
make the candles flicker as the shutters creak
in the wind outside. Something indefinable is
happening as he sings, with some lovely Curt Warren
chording behind him. He must be imagining himself
alone in the cosmos, far from home, trailing the
dust of his very own existence. Only once through.
I was truly moved.
Marc Pompe is a true Jazz singer, in thought and
deed, in the way he follows the thread of his
own instinct while reacting to his musical surroundings,
all the while insisting that notes sustained are
never lost anywhere...... not even in the stars.
Marc Pompe is appearing at the Fairbanks Lounge
in the Holiday Inn City Center. He appears on
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Located
at 300 East Ohio.
The three nights Marc plays is an early evening
entertainment policy. While enjoying the horsdeurves,
one can hear either solo piano or vocals by Marc
Pompe. Many a night jazz players come by to sit
in with Marc and anything goes when that happens.
The Fairbanks keeps alive a tradition of some
great clubs that thrived in the early 60’s
here and elsewhere. All featured Marc Pompe at
one time or another, clubs that catered to a listening
audience and knew and loved the great jazz, swing,
and select show times throughout the years. Obscure
ballads, great verses and lyrics not often heard.
Le Bistro, Grapevine, Hucksters where some Chi
town spots. In the 60’s JILLY’S in
Manhattan where the Marc Pompe trio was featured
opposite Bobby Cole. Marc also played extended
engagements in St. Thomas.
Recent local engagements both single and trio
include Windows, at the Hilton hotel, Circa and
Now at the Fairbanks and still refining his repertoire
though having added in original material written
over a 30 year span a trio album soon to be released
will feature Marc with Rusty Jones on drums and
nick Tountas on bass. So if you are in the River
North area drop in and catch Marc and see for
yourself that the area does have most outstanding
entertainment even on the off nights.
Finally there is Marc Pompe, a singer who does
it the traditional way, full-blooded belting in
front of a tasty piano trio. Pompe’s voice
is not as distinctive as his models, Mel Torme
and Mark Murphy, but he does have a solid, good-humored
sound that he uses well on pop standards. A couple
of Jazz standards, "Joy Spring" and
"What Am I Here For," show he knows
how to do vocalese as well. His supporting trio
is very competent, especially Larry Novak, a pianist
with a lively touch shown best in his few opportunities
to stretch out, like on "Waltz For Debbie."