Michael Civisca is often referred to as a “traditional pop crooner.” With a style marked by an effortless sense of swing, lush baritone resonance and innate sensitivity to the lyric, he evokes the iconic male vocalists of the 40’s and 50’s. Inspired by the ample riches of the Great American Songbook, Civisca captures the warmth and veracity of the era and revitalizes the timeless standards– gems by such greats as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Harold Arlen– for contemporary audiences.
Growing up, Michael listened to American pop music of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. The genre was a favorite of his family, especially during the holidays. “It was the music of the household,” he recalls, “It’s part of my youth and the good memories I have. Growing up, the music became part of my identity.” At the age of ten, Michael started playing the trumpet and discovered artists like Herb Albert, and Louis Armstrong. By the time he was a young teenager, Michael knew the lyrics to countless jazz standards and Broadway songs, which he describes as “all about the love.” He walked around the hallways at school, belting out old songs that none of his classmates had heard of. This was the beginning of what would be a lifelong passion for classic American pop music.
Michael has made meticulous study of many of his predecessors such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett, paying close attention to the unique nuances and techniques that make each so great. Of particular inspiration is the contemporary singer Sting, who, Michael says, “has unique character in his voice…A great texture.” Michael believes that these are requisite for expressing the mood and meaning of the song. “When a singer reveals vulnerability in their performance,” he says, “That’s what takes you into the lyric.”
Michael also has a keen sensibility for the art and craft of the arrangement, which he says can turn a good song into a great one. He feels that arrangements help him articulate his instincts and are an important vehicle for delivering the message of the song. He frequently collaborates with other musicians for many of the arrangements in his repertoire. He holds high regard for many of the master arrangers of the 1950’s and 60’s, who incorporated bold rhythms and interesting harmony lines for string and horn sections. “People like Billy May, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones and Richard Wess set the standard,” he says, “They arranged with attitude.”
Michael has been singing professionally since 1995. He is equally at ease whether singing with a jazz combo, big band or a symphony orchestra, and has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad. He has played leading roles in stage productions in Las Vegas and Broadway and has released five CDs to date. His fourth CD “Love is Like A Breeze”, for which Michael wrote the title track, was recorded at Sony studios in London, with veteran arranger/producer Charlie Calello at the helm. In addition to singing, Michael has worked as a voice actor, contributing his vocal talents to commercials, animation and movie soundtracks. Michael recently took a hiatus from his career to spend more time with his family and concentrate on raising his children. “I knew the moments would fly by, and I didn’t want to miss them,” he explains.
Michael Civisca approaches the Great American Songbook with true reverence and velvet finesse. His soul connection to the lyric shines through and is bolstered by phenomenally patient phrasing and a fearless affinity for rhythm. Each song is accentuated by the deeply hued timbre of his voice and his mastery of subtle dynamics. At the heart of it all is an earnest desire to remain true to the integrity of the music and to honor the people who wrote it. All About Jazz Magazine once wrote that Civisca is “a welcome addition to the male jazz/pop singers where fresh blood is desperately needed.” If there ever were an ambassador to the Great American Songbook, it would be Michael Civisca. His take is much more modest. “I’m a traditional pop crooner,” he says, “That’s what I do.”