AS MUSICAL DIRECTOR, CONDUCTOR, AND KEYBOARDIST for Natalie Cole, Gail Deadrick knows you can never know too many songs. "I'll put it this way: You have to love music," she laughs. "It's not like a show where you can learn 20 songs and you're good. Right now Natalie travels with 118 songs in the book-and those hundred-odd songs can change!"
HOW DID A BACKCOUNTRY BOY PERFECT such a smooth, sophisticated, and undeniably urban pop sound? Greg Sczebel's songs glisten with irrepressible hooks and polished production. It's hard not to make comparisons to such great singer/keyboardists as Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Billy Joel. Yet Sczebel doesn't sound strictly retro-you also hear such modern influences as Alicia Keys, Jamie Cullum, and John Legend.
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH GIFTED PIANISTS, sometimes it takes more than mere talent to make an impact. For high-key piano virtuoso ELEW-also known as Eric Robert Lewis-success comes from a carefully crafted battle plan that combines serious chops, a uniquely flamboyant playing style, and, yes, even armor.
Currently opening for superstar vocalist Josh Groban at a stadium near you, ELEW brings his trademark "rockjazz" solo piano sound to life with energetic, unexpected covers of some of the pop canon's best-loved hits, including Coldplay's "Clocks," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black."
SINCE THE '70S LEE RITENOUR HAS PURSUED a dual career as a leading session player and a solo instrumentalist. His tasteful guitar work graces songs by artists from Michael Jackson to Henry Mancini, Steely Dan to Sinatra, while his solo discs have helped define the sound of smooth jazz.
WHEN SIXTH-GRADER GREYSON CHANCE PERFORMED a piano-and-voice cover of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" at an Edmond, Oklahoma, talent show in April 2010, he went over big. Very big.
A YouTube video of his performance quickly went viral, gaining ten thousand views in just a few weeks. Within a month, Greyson had performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and scored a record deal on Ellen's newly minted record label, eleveneleven.
MILES ROBERTSON DIDN'T SEE IT COMING. "I got a call from a booking agent," says the New York-based keyboardist. "They said, 'There's this artist called Adele from the UK. She's getting ready to embark on a U.S. promo tour, and she's going to need the services of a keyboard player.' I said, 'Sure,' though I'd never heard of her. We played some TV dates, and one of them was Saturday Night Live, and it just happened to be the episode that Sarah Palin was on."
Now, with the release of Disney's The Muppets, their first theatrical film in 12 years, the Muppets are poised to sing, dance, and charm their way into the hearts of the world all over again. And Rowlf is right there at the piano, keeping it all in almost-perfect harmony.
"Music is people, playing together," says drummer Aaron Comess. "My favorite music has always resulted from different players with different styles coming together to create unique sounds and grooves."
It's tough to find a groove-oriented bass player who wasn't influenced by vintage Motown tracks, especially the inspired fretwork of bassist James Jamerson. But Joe Karnes puts a new spin on that beloved old sound when he plays with Fitz & the Tantrums, the neo-soul combo that burst from the LA club scene with their 2010 album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, and its hit single, "MoneyGrabber."