MEET IZZY CHAIT: SINGER, SONGWRITER, ART EXPERT, AND AUCTIONEER
An inspiring singer with a powerful voice, Izzy Chait has loved jazz and pop standards throughout his life. In his wide-ranging musical career, he has infused vintage standards, pop tunes and inspirational songs with his own strong musical personality, updating the music without changing its original intent, showing listeners a good time while also making them think. “I love to be able to deliver a message to an audience and really get to them,” says the singer. Whether in his live performances or in his growing body of work as a recording artist, Izzy is making a major impact.
Izzy Chait was born in Germany , moving to America with his family when he was three. He grew up in the Los Angeles area, remembers watching Your Hit Parade on television and being attracted to 1950s standards, pop, rhythm & blues and doo wop. “I sang in temple as part of the choir in synagogue for many years and also with the glee club in school. But the first major singing that I did in public was after I joined the Marine Corps in 1966. I sang with a little band in Viet Nam where we exchanged songs for beers.” At the time, Izzy was mostly singing rock & roll and doo wop but he was also inspired by Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman and Oscar Brown Jr, and learned a countless number of standards. After he was discharged from the Marines, he studied anthropology and ethnomusicology at UCLA. “During the late 1960s while going to school, I sang at many clubs around Los Angeles including quite a few piano bars. I did that for about three or four years and we were made pretty good money for those days, performing standards.”
Having developed a fascination for Asian antiques (along with Eastern philosophy and religion) while in the Marines, Izzy started buying and selling antiques as a hobby, realizing after college that he could make a living from his expertise. At that point, he was at an early cross roads and had to make a career choice. “I decided to quit singing because the lifestyle of playing clubs until 2 a.m. and having customers buying me drinks all night long conflicted with school and with my building up a business. So for 25 years, I didn't sing in public.” He opened up an Asian art and antiquities shop in West Hollywood, developed into becoming a top auctioneer, and eventually opened up his highly successful I.M. Chait Gallery in Beverly Hills.
In the late 1990s, Izzy revisited his past. “I was on a cruise in the Caribbean and some of the guys in the ship's band approached me. They had heard that I used to sing and wanted to know if I would sing a few songs with them. I sang a blues in G and it was such fun that I realized that I really missed singing. I started singing now and then at little parties for friends and was part of a casual band for awhile. Finally I decided that since I had a successful business and was getting a little older, I could afford to work on building a true musical legacy.”
The first step was to record his debut CD. 2001's Once Upon A Time was co-produced by Izzy with Howard McCrary. Together they co-wrote the philosophical “Stranger” and the love song “Please Dear.” Otherwise, Once Upon A Time features Izzy singing some of his favorite standards including “All Of Me,” “Blues In The Night,” “All The Way” and a medley of Gershwin songs. Background singers are used on some of the selections and, on a blues medley, Gayle Moran Corea and Howard McCrary join Izzy in creating a vocalese sound similar to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. All in all, Once Upon A Time was quite a start to Izzy Chait's new career.
His next recording, Love Is Here To Stay, was a live album recorded on Valentine's Day in 2005 at the legendary Jazz Bakery, one of Izzy's favorite clubs. Joined by a top-notch sextet that included pianist Mike Strickland, trumpeter Steve Huffsteter, guitarist Jamie Findlay and Linda Moss on harmonica plus two background singers, Izzy is featured singing 14 love songs. Whether it is “L-O-V-E,” “The Very Thought Of You,” “At Last” or even “The Lady is A Tramp,” the singer makes each song sound fresh, topical and contemporary while swinging hard and digging into the lyrics.
Later in 2005 in another live concert from the Jazz Bakery, Izzy explored Christmas songs on Live For The Holidays while joined by a sextet including pianist Sergio Minervini, Findlay and Moss. In addition to joyfully invigorating such songs as “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” he contributed the spiritual “If You Believe All That” and his emotional “Callin' All Angels.”
In some ways 2008's If I Can Dream was a change of pace since it features Izzy adapting pop songs into jazz settings. But since he is a religious and spiritual man, his choice to record some of his favorite inspirational tunes, no matter what the original source, was really an extension of his religious beliefs into his music. Izzy interprets lyrics about hope and improving the world, getting his message across in a very musical manner. Included on If I Can Dream are compositions by John Lennon, Michael McDonald and Elton John (“The Bridge”) plus such songs as “Change Gonna Come,” “Wade In The Water,” “Nature Boy” and “Callin' All Angels.” Izzy creates music on If I Can Dream that is both memorable and meaningful while effortlessly crossing over musical boundaries. Callin' All Angels is also the title cut of a recent EP of inspirational songs and blues.
Izzy Chait's definitive recording is For Your Love, his third live CD from the Jazz Bakery. Izzy, his sextet and background singers Lisa Vaughn and Lynne Fiddmont performs standards from the swing era (including “Night And Day,” “The Nearness Of You” and “How Deep Is The Ocean”), lowdown blues, “Moondance,” and more recent tunes (“All That I Am” and “Sea Of Love”). Although covering several different styles, the music is consistently fresh, passionate and spirited, with Izzy sounding comfortable whether singing music from the repertoire of Tony Bennett or Dr. John.
In 2011, Concord Record and Izzy joined forces on a new CD, Jazz Holiday Party Volume 2, now garnering airplay, especially in the Southern California area on KJazz 88.1, a leading jazz and blues station in America. The disc features “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” from Frank Sinatra, “A Child is Born,” by Bill Evans and Tony Bennett, Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song,” the Ray Charles offering of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and Chait’s own rendition of “Let It Snow.”
Izzy's most recent projects involve recording with a number of seasoned musicians. In the last quarter of 2011, Izzy began recording with producer and multi-talented musician Don Peake at Peake’s studio in North Hollywood, California. For his production of Izzy Chait’s album, Peake brought in members of the last Ray Charles touring band, along with guitarist Gonzalo Bergbergera and violinist Scarlet Rivera. Izzy and Don are concluding sessions for this album slated for release in spring 2012. The project includes Izzy’s renditions of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “September Song”, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, and a re-working of Peake’s own arrangement of “If I Was A Carpenter,” that was initially recorded by Bobby Darin. The duo has also cut “American The Beautiful”, a standard Peake recorded with Ray Charles in 1972. If that wasn’t enough, Izzy has also recorded a few tunes with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour band in Nashville.
Between his two careers, Izzy Chait stays quite busy. Occasionally his roles overlap, as on a recent trip to China. While conducting an antique roadshow as an appraiser and an art expert, when it was discovered that he was a vocalist, he was asked to sing a number a capella. Izzy spontaneously sang the 1929 song “You Were Meant For Me” and, since the program was being televised, his performance was seen by an estimated audience of 30 million viewers.
Although his singing is generally enjoyed by slightly smaller audiences at clubs, charitable events and private functions, Izzy Chait always puts on an energetic and enthusiastic show. “My viewpoint on music is that it never has to be exactly the same twice. There are all kinds of songs that are available out there that can be done in styles that I am comfortable with without detracting from the originals. I've even been singing a Prince song, 'Kiss,' in a jazz style. I want people to understand the nature of the great American songbook, and realize that it can include non American tunes and also songs that were written much more recently; it all depends how it is performed.”
Izzy Chait is making a difference in his career, combining positive messages with swinging and soulful music. “I am 65. In the next 10-15 years I want to record as many albums as possible. I find that when people hear a song and really understand the significance of the lyrics, it creates an effect and a change in their life, and the change is unkillable. It is my goal to make that happen often.”
2003: “Once Upon A Time” is released and makes it to the Grammy consideration list
2006: “Our Love is Here to Stay”, a live album recorded on Valentine’s Day at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City
2006: “Live for the Holidays”, a jazzy collection of seasonal favorites.
2008: “If I Can Dream”, a collection of uplifting and inspirational songs
2009: “For Your Love”, an album of American standards and jazz classics including Contemporary picks such as Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance”
2010: “Callin’All Angels”, an EP of inspirational blues produced for a charity event
2011: “KJazz Holiday Party Volume 2”, Izzy’s rendition of “Let It Snow” is featured
2012: “Izzy Chait Remixed”, collaboration with music director Bill Keis to revamp some old favorites
2012: "Straight from the Heart", Izzy's songs from his "Once Upon A Time" album are taken back to the studio for a touch up and are rereleased
2012: “Winds of Change”, hand-picked songs recorded with the Ray Charles Alumni Band and Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour band
2013: "Izzy Chait N.Y.E. Live At Beverly Hilton ", Cover songs recorded live on New Year’s Eve at Beverly Hilton Hotel