"Come the witching hour, his voice turns to magic." - New York Daily News
Sometimes singers come along who offer something truly special. There are those with great voices who we know and love, and there are those who have a "can't take your eyes off" presence. Thos Shipley seems to be both of these rolled into one - a singer with a stunning voice and a magnetism that can only be described as star quality.
With MY FAVORITE THINGS, his debut recording, Thos brings this quality to us beautifully through the idiom in which he seems naturally at home, vocal jazz. The record is a remarkable collection of classic American theatre music and fine contemporary songwriting, brought to life from a jazz point of view. Thos' voice is not easily pinned down, a flexible and powerful instrument that swings so easily and flows spontaneously into R & B flourishes. But there is also a core of immediacy that has an almost theatrical excitement to it. Mr. Shipley, an experienced Broadway performer and
5-time MAC award winner (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) for Outstanding Jazz Vocalist, is proud of this combination. He explains the inspiration for the CD ~
"I have a love for musical theatre but come from a jazz background in the way I hear things. The repertoire of the Musical Theatre is the jazz bible. The lyrics and melodies of these tunes are so strong they lend themselves to many interpretations. I look at Jazz as an approach to music and a way to orchestrate the emotions and images that these songs evoke."
Thos Shipley was born in Maryland to a military father and a mother who taught first grade. Thos' father was in the 327th Army band and had his own jazz group, playing upright and electric bass as well as all bass brass. Thos discovered music as a way to keep grounded. "At the age of 12 I got my first drum set after taking beginning lessons in elementary school. My brothers and I created a little band. We would to perform at family functions and give neighborhood concerts in our back yard. Later in high school, I began singing and playing rock drums and formed a group with some guys a few years ahead of me. My dad wasn't particularly happy about the rock; the long hair and generally loud music created some concerns. One of our bands we called "Wake"; the guitarist's Dad was a mortician and let us practice in the funeral home as long as there were no bodies on the premises. We had our publicity photo taken in a graveyard. It was very cool, we could practice at the funeral home as long and as loud as we wanted."
Thos wanted to study music in college but gave in to his parents' practical concerns by majoring in Electronics Engineering at the Ohio Institute of Technology. But he continued to play and studied jazz piano with Bobby Pierce at the Beckley Conservatory of Music until he had to choose between getting his degree and practicing. He graduated and got a job working as a technician on board ships doing seismic research for oil companies, lasting for one 23-day cruise in the Pacific. Thos soon returned to Ohio, found another job, and started pursuing things he truly wanted to do such as dancing. He studied at the Ohio Ballet, began doing theatre, and ended up moving to Nashville. "I've come to find that if you don't have the guts to do what you want to do in your heart, it will still happen but perhaps not as smoothly as it could have," he muses. A gig at the Barn Dinner Theatre as a singing waiter soon appeared and later a job playing drums for a touring show. The show brought him to Knoxville, where it closed. Thos began studying vocal jazz technique with singer Patti Coker and performed at the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair. It was there that he caught the eye of managers who encouraged him to move to Atlanta.
Thos was soon making a living by playing clubs, doing theatre in Atlanta, and singing backup vocals on other people's albums. It was during this time that he appeared one evening at an Atlanta lounge called The Veranda. Leslie Uggams happened to be in the audience that night. She was mesmerized by what she experienced and spoke with Thos after the show, promising to help him in his career. This led to a trek north for a special appearance at the Claridge in Atlantic City, with Thos performing an engaging mixture of jazz, R & B, and pop. Shortly after this performance, he appeared on
Regis & Kathie Lee and scored a regular engagement at Jean Carlos in midtown. His first review in Bob Harrington' BACKSTAGE column hailed Thos Shipley as "On The Way To Stardom."
Thos continued performing in New York, gathering even more attention and opening for future stars such as comedian Mario Cantone. A new musical home was eventually found upstairs at the Green Nest in Soho. But life practicalities caught up with him once again and he was forced to take a receptionist job at a prominent Manhattan law firm. So, Thos played the New York game of balancing a creative life with a day job. He performed in regional theatre, had his own Off-Broadway one-man musical revue, Broadway Goes Jazz, produced by Eric Krebs, and appeared at clubs such as the Iridium and grand venues including Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall. He also traveled out of the city to play the Spoleto Jazz Festival in North Carolina and twice toured Japan.
A turning point came when Thos was cast in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. He stayed with the show for a three-year stint in New York and Asia and went on to play Harry's International of Singapore as a solo act. He now performs regularly in Manhattan, appearing weekly at the elegant New Leaf Café in Fort Tryon Park near the Cloisters. As a crowd-pleasing feature at
Town Hall's 2002 Cabaret Convention, he shared the stage with such talent as Bill Charlap and
Andrea Marcovicci, performed in Nantes, France at La Nuit Du Jazz in October 2002, and is part of the developmental cast recording of the new big band musical based on Othello, Ivory Joe Cole.
He is currently on the faculty of Singer's Forum, works regularly in regional musical productions, and is a Voice over artist with national and international credits.
MY FAVORITE THINGS is a lush exploration of classic American song along with new grooves and sentiments, all generated by this tremendous voice. One may be reminded of Johnny Hartman,
Nat Cole, or Al Jarreau, but Mr. Shipley's unique expression takes the listener to new and exciting places. The moving arrangement of the priceless This Nearly Was Mine, and the dark coloring of
The Way You Look Tonight offer intimate conversations with Thos. The title track is a crisp and swinging promise of the best in life, which can't help but evoke John Coltrane, and
Sunday In New York is a true New Yorker blues tune that Thos wrote while touring and having one of those "you don't know what you got till it's gone" experiences.
The recording finally brings this talent to the ears of the audience he deserves.
"My first attraction to a song is the lyric and that is what I approach the arrangement (re: harmonization, phrasing, grooves) ideas from. I come at music from a very visual point of view because the lyric sets a scene or mood for me and then I orchestrate it...scoring the film of my life if you would. The Way You Look Tonight and This Nearly Was Mine are total examples of that approach for me. They are real conversations and scenes with a musical underscore.
A jazz approach is the way I hear what I see."