By Michael Gioia
04 Sep 2013
Mendez and music director Paguia met in 2010. Based in NYC, they have performed at venues such as Joe's Pub, Birdland and Lincoln Center, as part of the 2013 American Songbook series. The duo takes on Manhattan nightclub 54 Below Sept. 9 at 9:30 PM, where they will debut new tunes and perform old favorites from their debut jazz album "This Time."
"This Time," which was released May 28, offers an eclectic mix of songs, reimagining tracks from popular music and blending elements of jazz, soul and rock into the familiar setting of an acoustic piano trio (in addition to Paguia at the piano, Chris Tordini plays bass with Tommy Crane on drums) and vocalist. Their reinterpretations include songs by Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Fiona Apple, The Cars, Joni Mitchell, John Legend and more.
In anticipation of the duo's upcoming gig, Playbill.com checked in with Mendez, who chatted about working at 54 Below and hand-picking new material with collaborator Paguia.
Lindsay Mendez: I do, too. What I love about 54 Below is that it celebrates people in our industry and gives a place for all of us — actors and performers — to show what else we do besides what we do eight times a week down the street. And, I love that [the club is] literally underneath a Broadway theatre — you really feel the vibe and the energy of midtown. We've gigged all over the city, and I love getting to play at this venue and getting to bring what I like to do on the side — which is kind of strict jazz [sound] — to a Broadway-type of venue. It's really exciting, and I think it opens us up to a bigger Broadway audience who have might not have heard [our jazz material] before.
What has been the response to your debut album with Marco, "This Time"?
LM: It's been really exciting. [Our] goal in making the album and in working together has always been to create a sound that was musically challenging and, yet, accessible to people who weren't necessarily musicians. It's definitely a modern kind of jazz [and] R&B style mashed together. People are really loving it and enjoying it, and that's been such a thrill to me — especially [when] young people, who I don't know would necessarily go out and buy a jazz album, have decided to buy it because they saw me in Wicked or Dogfight. I think it's been surprising to them, and they really adopted it, and it's been so amazing to hear from people on social media that they're loving the album. Continued...