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Monday, April 15, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Cole Rumbough, Jazz Singer and Songwriter Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling and Associates

Cole Rumbough

Photo Credit: Judy Schiller

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Jazz sensation Cole Rumbough was born David Colgate Rumbough in New York City on January 16, 1991 to former Wilhelmina model, Leah Jensen and fashion-turned-architectural photographer, Stanley H. Rumbough. Cole is a great-grandson of Post cereals heiress, Marjorie Merriweather Post and financier, E.F. Hutton, and a grandson of actress Dina Merrill and Colgate heir and entrepreneur, Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr. Cole Rumbough is a jazz and cabaret performer dedicating his art to preserving and promoting the romance and songwriting genius of the American Popular Songbook. His main influences are Ella Fitzgerald, Vic Damone, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Christine Andreas, and Marilyn Maye.

Cole grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and pursued singing as his passion. In high school, he toured Europe with his church choir and a prestigious national choir called “Sound of America,” made up of 80 of the best high school singers in the country of 2007, representing 45 states. They performed at venues such as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the coliseum in Verona, Italy. Last summer, Cole returned to his church choir as an alumnus to sing at St Peter’s Basilica at The Vatican. These musically fulfilling experiences have led to his love for travel. In the fall semester of 2011, Cole studied abroad by traveling around the world on Semester at Sea, a program in which students live on a ship, attend classes at sea, and visit 14 countries, mainly throughout Africa and Asia.

At 22, Cole Rumbough is currently a senior at The New School University in Manhattan, majoring in Jazz Voice and History. Since discovering jazz as a teenager, Cole has sung in various venues in the Hamptons with a local jazz duo, as well as private events at the “21” club and La Grenouille restaurant. In August of 2012, he was a winner of the Jazz Arts Forum Vocal Competition and performed in the Dobbs Ferry Jazz Festival.

Recently, Cole Rumbough performed at the NYC Mission Society’s Bicentennial Gala at The Pierre Hotel with American Idol’s Ray Chew band, and at The International Red Cross Ball at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, with The Peter Duchin Orchestra. Cole’s music will be featured in the 2013 Supernova Media film, Awakened.

Cole’s primary charity is the NYC Mission Society, Manhattan’s oldest running charity, which operates many programs to help break the cycle of poverty for families and underserved youth in Harlem. He is the fourth generation in his family to serve the mission. We are absolutely thrilled to present Cole Rumbough as our latest Mover and Shaker. Peachy Deegan interviewed Cole for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: 
What is your first musical memory?

Cole Rumbough: My mother singing to me every night.

What is the difference between someone that can pursue music professionally and someone that pursues music leisurely?

Their talent and drive.

How are you making jazz new and exciting for today's audience? 
I’m giving it my own voice, pun intended. I have fun being creative with my arrangements and each individual has their own story to tell through a song. I may be biased but I think it’s hard not to love big band and swing. It’s classic, it’s romantic, and people love it as it is, so if you put your own spin on it, even better.

What has been your most memorable performance and why?

On the “Sound of America” concert tour, we were performing in St Sulpice, a beautiful cathedral in Paris. If you’ve ever read or seen The DaVinci Code, it’s the one with the Rose line running through it. It was near the end of the tour and it was our best performance yet. By the end of it, we all had gotten so emotional that we were all crying and hugging each other. Creating such beautiful music together in such a spiritual space filled with amazing history and incredible acoustics with all your new friends, as a team, and knowing the tour is about to end, can be an emotional experience.
Also, singing a tribute song to my grandmother, which my grandfather wrote for her back in the 50’s, while dressed in white tie and tails at the Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach was very special. I’ll never forget it.

What are you learning at the New School that is intrinsic to its program? 
Each course covers a different but equally important aspect to cultivating one’s skills and style. Ear training, theory, arranging, composition, rhythmic analysis, improvisation, sight-reading, performance, etc. 

How does one go about writing a song and how long does it take? 
I don’t have too much experience with this. It usually takes me hours, if not days. But, I have a very talented friend who can write as many as three songs in a day—and pretty good ones, too. Everybody is different. I approach writing a song by writing the lyrics first. I start with a main idea or theme in mind, then use a free word association method and then go back later to edit with a critical eye for structure and rhyme scheme. Then, I will write the melody and add chords to it. But it all depends….you might have a melody in mind or an idea for a chord progression first so you could approach it from that angle. There’s no one way to write a song.

We have heard that those that excel in writing music excel in math-would you agree? 
 Why or why not? 

No, I don’t agree. I don’t think the two have anything to do with one another. Math uses a logical part of your brain while writing a song is more creative. Perhaps it’s true in the case of a musical genius, like Mozart, who could hear every little thing in his head before putting it on paper and think of it from a mathematical standpoint. But I don’t think most people think of it that way.

Do you play musical instruments and if so which ones?
I used to play the Viola in middle school, and I was obsessed with the Pipe Organ because my maternal grandmother is an organist and has one in her music room, so I would sit there for hours playing when we’d go visit. Now, I just play a little Piano—not well enough to accompany myself (yet) but well enough to figure out an arrangement and beautiful chords I can use.

What venues worldwide would you like to star in and what do you like about each?

I would love one day to headline at The CafĂ© Carlyle, The Royal Room at The Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Birdland, and all the other legendary cabaret rooms. That is what I’m setting my sights on now. Hopefully, one day my career will be at a level where a larger venue will make more sense (and I can fill the stage with a big band and strings), but bigger is not always better. What is so great about these cabaret rooms is the intimacy, which allows for interaction with the audience. It seems more authentic and more fun to me than singing in a huge concert hall, where no one in the back row of the balcony can see your facial expressions and catch the subtleties and nuances.

What are your top five favorite songs of all time by other artists and what do you like about each?
I get asked this question so often and I don’t know if I will ever be able to answer it! I know hundreds of songs and a different one is stuck in my head every 10 minutes or so. I love them all! If we’re talking about particular recordings, I love Ella Fitzgerald’s “Let’s Fall in Love,” from her Harold Arlen Songbook album. It is one of the first recordings of Ella I ever heard and I could never grow tired of it because of the instrumentation and the way it is arranged is so perfect! I also love her 1960 studio version of Misty, her famous duet with Louis Armstrong on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and Frank Sinatra’s classic big band recording of “The Way You Look Tonight,” because it’s romantic, uplifting, and always makes me think of everything glamorous about Manhattan. If I had to choose one more, perhaps “Desafinado” by Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz because it has such a beautifully complex melody and a soft, Brazilian bossa nova rhythm that always reminds me of my grandmother’s elegant summer dinner parties in East Hampton.

What are your favorite songs that you've written and how can the readers hear them? 
So far, I have only written one (that I actually like!) called “Awakened.” It will be featured in the film, Awakened, starring Julianne Michelle, John Savage, and Steven Bauer, coming out hopefully by this fall. There isn’t an official theatrical release date yet. I’m pretty proud of this song. I arranged it for a jazz quintet and strings and it sounds very haunting. You’ll be able to buy the song off the movie soundtrack on iTunes, and please do!

Connecticut is our favorite state. What do you love about Connecticut and what should everyone know about it? 
I love that my family lives there and it’s a peaceful country weekend escape from Manhattan. Readers should know that Connecticut is home to the first hamburger (1895), Polaroid camera (1934), helicopter (1939), color television (1948), and also the oldest U.S. newspaper still being published: The Hartford Courant, established in 1764. Also, in Hartford, it is illegal for a man to kiss his wife on Sunday, to cross the street while walking on your hands, to educate dogs, and for a pickle to be considered a pickle, it must bounce.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
I am so lucky to have such wonderful role models all around me. I get my perfectionism from my mother. She has instilled in me the importance of doing things to the best of your ability or not at all. I have learned integrity and work ethic from my grandfather, Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr. My great-grandmother, Mrs. Post, also inspires me. I never knew her, unfortunately, but I have heard and read so much about her. I aspire to be as larger-than-life as she was, both in my pursuit of living life to the fullest and making my surroundings as beautiful as possible and also in being as gracious and generous as possible.

What are you proudest of and why?

I would say I am proudest of my heritage. I am lucky to have been born into a family of very smart and accomplished people with good, strong values and I am determined to carry on the tradition and make my family proud.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?

Record an album of Jazz standards with a big band and strings and all original arrangements.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?

I auditioned for the Vocal Arts Forum Jazz competition and won a spot in the Dobbs Ferry Jazz festival last summer. Nothing else I can think of, though, as I’m just starting out.

What one word best describes you and why?

My friends often tell me I’m the most elegant person they know.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

The Carlyle

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

Bergdorf Goodman

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?

Professionally speaking, either Billy Stritch or Ted Firth because they are the best Piano accompanists in Manhattan. Personally speaking, my own personal masseuse so I could have a massage every night before going to sleep.

What is your favorite drink? 
My favorite drink for cocktail hour is an Elderflower martini. But my actual favorite drink is a Ghirardelli hot cocoa with whipped cream!

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?

Probably the time I was at a 4th of July party at The Maidstone Club in East Hampton. I thought I saw my mom at the bar so I went up to her from behind and gave her a peck on the cheek, only to realize that she wasn’t my mom but a girl a little older than myself. She was taken by surprise, of course, as was I. So, I apologized profusely and said, “I thought you were my.....friend.” I was so close to saying she looked like my mom but I didn’t want to get my face slapped because not everyone’s mom looks as young as mine does but she didn’t know that. So I caught my tongue just in time! When I found my mom, I told her the story and got lots of brownie points.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

I don’t think I could name one. I love great food! I love Swifty’s, Le Cirque, La Grenouille, Orso, Da Umberto, and Nobu.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 

It’s a tie between Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Great Gatsby, even though most of it is set on Long Island. I think it still counts.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?

There is no one I would rather be than myself. There’s so much living to do and I don’t intend on missing a single day of being me and doing what I love.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 

Perhaps a cabaret room like Michael Feinstein has, or used to have. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?

Walking to and from school every weekday. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Go to one of Jim Caruso’s Monday night open mic session’s at Birdland and sing with broadway stars, amateurs and jazz legends alike. Last time I went, Michael Feinstein and Liza Minnelli were sitting at the next table. 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
Ella Fitzgerald, because she is my favorite singer of all time.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
That’s a really tough one as there are so many wonderful broadway shows, operas, Cirque du Soleil, Barbra Streisand’s concert in Brooklyn (although I know that technically doesn’t count because it’s not Manhattan). I loved Christine Andreas at The Carlyle and Marilyn Maye at Feinstein’s. Basically New York is too full of cultural treasures to pick a favorite!

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?

I am working with my friend, Brooke Laing to start a junior board for the New York City Mission Society in order to host numerable smaller-scale fundraising events throughout the year and network with other young philanthropists and movers and shakers in Manhattan. We will also have a more hands-on aspect to the committee in the form of a mentorship program with the kids in Harlem.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?

Of course, I think cabaret in New York is underrated. Places keep closing! It’s a horrible shame. The Rainbow room, the Oak room at the Algonquin, now Feinstein’s. Also, truffle fries. There should be more restaurants with truffle fries on the menu. The only overrated things I can think of are probably the touristy things like waiting in lines to go to the top of the empire state building, get into Serendipity, etc. But you get that in every major city with popular tourist attractions. It’s great to do once but once is enough!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like the restaurant review column, Peachy's Picks, because there are so many great restaurants to discover in New York that you might not know about until you read about them! Peachy is a busy lady and works hard to steer us in the right direction!

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
Yes, I have! I tried it last night at The Field Club in Greenwich, and it is delicious!! (see photo below)

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I love to collect seashells and cufflinks.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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