Tag Archives: Great American Songbook


27 Jul
Brett and Julia Mitchell performing

Brett and Julia Mitchell performing

Brett and Julia Mitchell make beautiful music together…and apart. But how these two got to their shared lives as local musicians took each down very different paths. Speaking at their comfortable family home, Julia shared she didn’t start singing professionally until around 1993 when a friend, local jazz singer, Jim Conroy, heard her harmonizing to his vocals from the audience. He called her on stage to harmonize with him to the song, On the Boardwalk. Thereafter she occasionally sang with Jim. Three years later, she met Brett, who composes, sings and plays keyboards. He was so impressed with her deep, rich vocals that he sought to make her a featured singer and his wife. Julia primarily performs with Brett in duets or as a vocalist in one of the groups in which he plays. Her versatile vocals, primarily jazz, pop and from the Great American Songbook, resonate with the hearts of her listeners. She is best known for performing songs of female jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Diana Krall, Roberta Flack, and Joni Mitchell. She was featured at the Cambria Jazz Festival, the Jazz Federation “Diva” concert, and the Central Coast Follies.

Brett and Julia

Brett and Julia

Julia’s relatively late start as a professional musician belies her early love and involvement with music. When she was around age six, she and her brother started playing violin and viola, and their father, the cello. As a child growing up in Thousand Oaks, Julia loved playing in the local youth symphony, as well as attending concerts, opera and operettas, dressed in her finery. She relished visits from her Spanish cousins when the whole family would sing “in multiple layers of harmony.” Julia occasionally sang as young adult, but then pursued other interests until years later when she started singing professionally on the Central Coast.

While growing up in Oklahoma City, Brett started playing piano at age 12 and then percussion in the school band. By 15, he reported he was writing and performing music professionally, at a spot on the old Route 66. At 16 he began following his interests in acting which continued through his college studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where Olympia Dukakis was one of his acting instructors. At NYU, Brett also continued to pursue his musical interests. He and his friend/classmate, Melissa Manchester (later a Grammy-award winning artist), wrote music together as part of an application to a class taught by famed musician Paul Simon; they succeeded. Brett remembers this as an exciting time in music and theatre. While at NYU, Brett wrote the music for two musicals and the score for a student film, and he was a member of the BMI musical theater workshop, taught by famed conductor Lehman Engel. After college he acted with the North Carolina Repertory Theatre, but his passion for music pulled him back toward that career direction, eventually taking him to Southern California. Brett’s music is influenced by varied musical genres, including rock, pop, jazz, Broadway and the Great American Songbook.

Knowing some musicians who lived on the Central Coast, in 1986 Brett decided to relocate there from Southern California. He initially performed with his friends, Craig Nuttycombe (currently of Café Musique) and Peter Yelda (guitarist and former co-owner of Blue Note.). Brett began his local solo career playing at the Inn at Morro Bay. During solo performances, he surveys the crowd and tailors his musical selections to the audience make-up. Currently, he stays busy playing with several local bands. When forming a band Brett joked that he considers “the old guard of usual suspects.” On February 9th, Brett will be performing with his new group, the Kings of Cool (formerly Franks & Deans), at D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars Tasting Room. The Kings of Cool draw from the music and improvisation of the “Rat Pack”. Besides Brett, other vocals and repartee are performed by Steve McAndrew, Chad Stevens and Bobby Horn.

This year, Brett has been showcasing his original compositions. Accompanying Brett were Ken Hustad on bass, Darrell Voss on drums/percussion, Danny Weiss on guitar, Diane Steinberg-Lewis on vocals and keyboard, and Kim Wilkins on viola. George Wilkins, Kim’s husband, is helping Brett with arrangements. Before moving to the Central Coast, George Wilkins spent over seven years as a Composer in Residence at Walt Disney Productions and Director of Music for Walt Disney Engineering. In addition, George is a composer, arranger and orchestrator who has worked with many top recording artists and headline acts.

Human Nation

Human Nation

As a member of the popular local group, Human Nation, Brett is looking forward to the release of their CD which is scheduled for later this year. Human Nation is comprised of stellar musicians: Adam Levine, composer/arranger on electric and acoustic guitar; Danny Pelfrey (formerly with Tower of Power); Bill Wingfield on acoustic and electric bass; and Dean Giles on drums and percussion. Human Nation’s music draws from jazz, blues, Latin and funk melded with world rhythms.



Counterpoint is a cabaret-style group, featuring vocalists Steve McAndrew, Karinda Scott, as well as Brett and Julia, that performs favorites by groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, Christopher Cross, James Taylor, the Doobie Brothers and the Great American Songbook. Brett plays piano, with Adam Levine on guitar, and Ken Hustad on bass. Brett also performs locally with the trio, No Ego Amigos, who play a wide variety of musical styles at such venues as D’Anbino and the Bellasera Hotel in Paso Robles. Brett’s tangible achievements include ten CDs and composing the main theme for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival


26 Jul
Dawn Lambeth

Dawn Lambeth

Listening to Dawn Lambeth’s rhythmic, joyful jazz vocals, one would be surprised to learn that she was initially had no plans to become a musician. Her unique vocals emphasize simple, but pure jazz and swing from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Her humble, gentle countenance belies the fact that she has received admiring reviews from jazz historians and hosts of NPR music programs, been compared to such greats as Jo Stafford and Maxine Sullivan, and enjoyed national and international airplay.

Dawn grew up in upstate New York where she started taking traditional piano and violin lessons around age 10. In junior high school, she started singing in school and jazz choirs, as well as musicals at her church. In spite of a love for music, she didn’t feel confident enough to major in music and instead pursued a Liberal Arts degree with a music focus at Boston College. Since she was not a music conservatory student, her musical studies were primarily classes like jazz improvisation and music theory. She focused on piano, having not yet found her singing voice and style.

After graduating from college, Dawn had good friends who were musicians who encouraged her to be a “lounge singer” in a small band on a cruise ship. She didn’t find the music the band played to fit her style, although she admitted she had not yet found the musical genre she would eventually embrace. After six weeks performing, the cruise ship crashed (then very uncommon), which she took as “a sign” concluding that she was done with the music business. Seeking a more marketable degree, Dawn returned to college to study computer science.

While attending college in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, “the same musician friends” asked Dawn to play piano in their salsa band. They typically performed two to three times a week for dedicated salsa dancers. Through those musicians, she became friends with band members in a New Orleans style jazz band. When their regular pianist went on tour with Leon Redbone, Dawn would substitute. As the group atmosphere was “relaxed”, all the musicians, regardless of experience, sang, including Dawn. This was when she developed her passion for 1920s and 30s American music, which led to her searching for both familiar and lesser known songs.

At the last minute, in 2000, Dawn was invited to substitute for a musician who couldn’t make it to a music festival in the Monterey area. There she met her future husband, Marc Caparone, who was subbing on trumpet in another band. His regular “gig” was working at the family’s Paso Robles Caparone Winery where he and his father are winemakers. Dawn relocated to the Central Coast in May 2001 at which time she began performing at West Coast festivals with bands she knew from Pittsburg (Pennsylvania) and with her husband. Once on the Central Coast, Dawn also started developing her solo act. She started playing piano and singing at GiGi’s (now closed) during Thursday night Farmers’ market in San Luis Obispo. She performed regularly at the former Vinoteca wine bar in Paso Robles to admiring fans. Dawn’s elegant, yet personal style gives the listener the feeling of being part of a small, intimate audience.

Besides her solo performances, she sing and plays piano with she and her husband’s band, The Usonia Jazz Band, which usually consists of Dawn, her husband, Marc on cornet and occasionally bass, his father, Dave, on trombone, Mike Swann on bass, and often Karl Welz on saxophone. As a soloist and in Usonia, Dawn has performed in a variety of venues including at Hearst Castle, the historic Casino Ballroom on Catalina Island, and Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. as well as local bars, art shows, and private parties including weddings and wineries. Her most memorable experience was performing as one of the select invited musicians at a New Orleans style jazz festival in Osaka, Japan.

Dawn Lambeth

Dawn Lambeth

Dawn continues to play select local venues after the births of her two young children. She is scheduled at Pear Valley Vineyard, which describes her as a “favorite” in their summer concert series, on September 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. On Sunday September 22, she will be opening the North SLO County Concert Association’s 2013-2014 concert series at Trinity Lutheran Church in Paso Robles at 3p.m. Dawn noted her new favorite venues are private intimate performances at people’s homes or other small gatherings, such as potlucks or dessert concerts, where family and friends can relax and enjoy her music. Dawn’s upcoming performances and contact information can be found at www.dawnlambeth.com.

courtesy: www.slocoastjournal.com


21 Jul
Adam Levine

Adam Levine

Meet Adam Levine! Not the front man for Maroon 5, but the local guitarist, composer and arranger who lives and performs on the Central Coast. His group, Human Nation, which has roots in jazz, blues, Latin and funk, melded with world rhythms, will be releasing their first CD later this year. Human Nation has performed to admiring followers at his favorite local venue, D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars tasting room, as well as other wineries, the Paso Robles Ballroom, the Paso Robles City Park, and private functions. Adam’s precise finger work is featured in his upbeat composition Django’s Delight, an “homage to my guitar hero, Django Reinhardt,” the pioneering European virtuoso “gypsy” or “hot” guitarist.

Besides Adam on acoustic and electric guitar, other regular Human Nation band members include Danny Pelfry on sax, clarinet, flute and steel pan; Bill Wingfield on acoustic and electric bass; Brett Mitchell on keyboards; and Dean Giles on drums and percussion. Dave previously performed around the world as a bandleader and sideman on luxury cruises, at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, as well as with The Temptations, Manhattan Transfer, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Hamlisch. He presently teaches sax at Cuesta College. Bill started performing professionally at age 16. After a musical career hiatus, he returned to playing in 1999, and like Adam, he also has been an instructor at the National Guitar Workshop. Brett studied at NYU with many famed musicians including Paul Simon, and he wrote music with classmate/friend Melissa Manchester. (For detailed information on Brett, see the February 2013 Mostly Music column). Dean has worked with many successful artists, and recorded music for film, television, and commercials. The Human Nation CD was recorded locally and they are presently finishing mixing in Los Angeles where they were pleased to have Ron Wagner, percussionist with Cirque du Soleil, lay down tracks.

Before coming to the Central Coast, Adam played too many places to name, some highlights being Branson, Missouri (known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World”), New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He does composing and arranging, and has done studio session work including Capitol, Warner Brothers, and Motown Records. His commercial credits include McDonalds, Taco Bell and television show such as “Cheers,” “Simon and Simon,” “Merv Griffin,” and “Lawrence Welk”. Following the birth of his son in 1995, Adam and his wife, a classical pianist, decided to move to the beautiful Central Coast, where they had previously visited, seeking a more family-oriented environment.

Adam expected to find a shortage good local music on the Central Coast. Instead, he was surprised by the many talented musicians with whom he has been able to work, and he is now busier than ever. In addition to Human Nation, he regularly plays in three other groups. Counterpoint is a cabaret-style group, primarily spotlighting Big Band and contemporary pop, featuring vocalists, Brett and Julia Mitchell, Mostly Music column), Karinda Scott, and Steve McAndrew, with Brett on keyboard, as well as Human Nation musicians Bill Wingfield and Dean Giles all comprising the core group. It is very common for musicians, especially those doing jazz, to perform with multiple groups. This is the case for the two groups, the No Ego Amigos, which features Adam, Brett Mitchell, and Mike Swan on bass; the other trio features Adam, Brett and Judy Philbin on vocals. Both trios draw from the Great American Songbook during their regular performances on Thursday evening at the La Bellasera Hotel conveniently located on the southern outskirts of Paso Robles. La Bellasera is an intimate venue where one can relax by the fire and enjoy food or drink while the band plays within a few feet of the audience’s seating. This locale has the added benefit of easy access, no cover charge, and an early starting time of 6:30 p.m.

Raised in Baltimore, Adam started playing guitar at the same time his father took up guitar. According to Adam, “my father turned me on to bossanova.” Then Adam discovered the Beatles and decided he would play guitar for a living. He has studied at the Berklee School of Music and the Aspen Music School. He has studied privately with the venerable Joe Pass, generally considered to be one of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century. Adam is passionate about teaching guitar, including at the Aspen Music School, Musician’s Institute and National Guitar Workshop in San Francisco, and the Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, and currently with his local private students. Regarding his present 20 students, Adam relates, “I love teaching. It keeps me balanced.” His students have done on to play with such stars as Norah Jones, George Benson, and Celine Dion.

He also relishes collaborating with other local musicians, such as George Wilkins, whose many accomplishments include a seven year tenure as Composer in Residence at Walt Disney Production, as well as Director of Music for Walt Disney Imagineering. Adam shared that this past Christmas, he and Human Nation and other musicians got together for an impromptu jam session, which included George Wilkins performing rare vocals; Kenny Lee Lewis, former lead guitarist, now bassist with the Steve Miller Band; Danny Pelfry, former sax player with Tower of Power, on guitar this night; and Danny Weis, one of the founding members of Iron Butterfly.

Asked about memorable or amusing anecdotes, Adam recalled that when performing on the Merv Griffin Show, Scottish singer, and guitarist, Donovan, asked to borrow a “plektrum.” Unsure what that was, Adam offered his guitar pick; a lucky guess apparently, as the pick was never returned. Adam recalled another memorable incident during the opening night of the Lawrence Welk Show when the bubble machine went out of control, dropping soapy liquid onto the sheet music, causing the ink to run.

For more information about Adam, Human Nation’s release date and performances for Human Nation’s new CD, or performances by other groups in which Adam plays, find him on AdamLevinemusic on Facebook, or www.Human-Nation.com.

Article courtesy of: www.slocoastjournal.com.