My name is Bruce Lloyd Kates, and I am a classically trained musician and pianist living in Los Angeles where I was born. I have long had a passion for writing songs, and my songs are reminiscent of old standards from the 1930s -- an epoch of popular music that owed so much to the classical romantic tradition in its style and sensibility. The songwriters of that time who have had a profound influence on me range in their diversity from Irving Berlin to Noel Coward. When I was only 6 years old, my mother took me to see the MGM movie “Easter Parade” starring Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, and Ann Miller. I was so dazzled by these performers and, of course, by all the wonderful songs by Irving Berlin, that I never recovered! However, I think that if I had to name a song from that period that was my very favorite, it would be “Skylark” by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer.
On this website, in the “Music Samples” section, you can hear, in their entirety, the demo recordings of 38 songs from my extensive portfolio plus three instrumental pieces from my album of music for harmonica and piano, 'A Touch Of Well-Being.' One of my songs which might be of special interest is entitled “Lonesome For L.A.” Written in a swing jazz style, it has a catchy tune, cute lyrics, and reminds one of something Sinatra might have sung once he got tired of singing “New York, New York!” Jay Reiner of the Hollywood reporter, upon hearing this song, said, “The best municipal song I’ve ever heard!” That was nice to hear, for I have long held out the hope that this song might be considered a good candidate for that. It’s true that the talented Randy Newman wrote a song called “I Love L.A.” It was a big hit a number of years ago, but I wonder who’s going around humming it these days!
“The Kind Of Love I Need” was performed by me in a one-man show at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood a good many years ago. At that time, critic John Mahoney of the L.A. Times described that song as “reincarnated Gershwin.” Another song -- “Nostalgia” -- has been used as the opening song for a film by Dennis Brooks of Paramount Studios. The recording presented here is from the original sound track.
Beginning with “Music Out Of Nowhere” (Music Sample 8), you can listen to 5 of the 12 songs from my musical play entitled MUSIC OUT OF NOWHERE (A Love Story of the 1930s). It has been presented in numerous venues in the Greater Los Angeles region, including the Mark Taper Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles and, most recently, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Barnsdall Park in Hollywood. Audiences have been genuinely enthusiastic. Written for 3 actors/singers and a piano accompanist, it is extremely easy to mount. It is an old-fashioned love story that takes place in Los Angeles during the 1930s, and so it was such an ideal project for me to work on, being that my songwriting fits so completely into that period. The show offers almost 2 hours of nostalgia and romance, and it is a little trip down memory lane!
You may also be curious to hear a revised version I wrote of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” As long as I can remember, I have heard people complain about how difficult it is to sing our national anthem. So, keeping the same lyrics, and basically the same melody, I attempted to simplify the tune so as to make it more accessible to the average person. It so happens that I borrowed the idea from Puccini in his opera “Madame Butterfly.” In that opera, when the American captain sails into the harbor in Japan, Puccini has the orchestra break out into a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I was very impressed by the treatment Puccini did of that basic theme which was just a motif. So, I took that motif and just extended it to what seemed to be its logical conclusion. Though such a thing may appear to be controversial, my intentions were very respectful and reverent. The result was a song that has a hymn-like quallity to it. It works best when it is sung more slowly and more quietly than the standard version. Not long ago, it was performed by the choir in a local church, and people were visibly moved by it.
One of the three non-vocal selections in the Music Samples section is a piece for harmonica and piano entitled “A Greener World.” It features the internationally renowned harmonica player Tommy Morgan. I gave the work this title because it seems to evoke images of a world where people would be more conscious of the fragility of life, and more caring about the well-being of our planet. This piece is one of 14 pieces for harmonica and piano that Tommy Morgan recorded for me and that make up an album entitled “A Touch of Well-Being.” This album has been used extensively at various cancer centers, including City of Hope, where patients are undergoing the stress of chemotherapy. It has been shown to have a calming effect upon them as well as elevating their moods. This album is currently being sold on the website, CDBaby.com.
If I were called upon to describe in one sentence what my songs and music are about, I would say they are an attempt to bring together and harmonize two very different aspects of myself -- the emotional and the rational. I think that this kind of endeavor -- integrating these two sides of one’s nature -- is common to the human condition. At least, I’m hoping it will strike a chord in many people. Here, on this website, can be found a wide range of moods and textures which represent the very deepest expression of myself. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share these creative efforts with the wide public that has been made accessible to me through the internet. Thank you so much for your interest.
©2005 Bruce Lloyd Kates