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Darius de Haas Back in Chicago with Lush Life



Darius de Haas enjoys a multifaceted career as an award-winning widely acclaimed popular singer and actor. The son of Chicago jazz legends Geraldine and Eddie de Haas, Darius took his talents from the Southside of Chicago to Broadway and concert halls throughout the world. He made his Broadway debut in Kiss of the Spiderwoman, followed by Lincoln Center's revival of Carousel, he was in the original cast of Rent, The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm and many many others. His stature as a solo artist was launched with his two highly acclaimed concert tributes (to Billy Strayhorn and Stevie Wonder) for Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series. He is back in town staring in Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn at the Auditorium Theatre this Saturday November 21st. We caught up with Darius to talk about his early years in Chicago, his success on stage and screen and his upcoming performance in Chicago. 1. Your parents, Eddie and vocalist Geraldine de Haas, were both professional musicians based in Chicago but who toured the world with some of the legends of jazz. How did growing up in such a musical house help to shape your love of performing and music? de Haas: It was everything. Everything I do artistically was overall influenced by my parents. I am also greatly my uncle, Andy Bey, my aunt, Salome Bey. Going to gigs with my father as a little boy and watching him from the sidelines set the stage for how I would work with musicians in my band (though I didn’t know it at the time- I was just having fun). 2. What were some of the musical experiences you can remember that shaped your concept of performing while growing up in Chicago? de Haas: Well as I mentioned previously my father took me with him to gigs, here and there and I don’t know how he maneuvered it but him knowing I loved the song “Sing” from Sesame Street, he and the band would sometimes play it and I would get up on the bandstand and sing, little ham that I was. I remember going with my sister Aisha and often seeing my mother perform in the shows “Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope”, “To Be Young Gifted and Black” and with Chicago’s Free Street Theater. Those and a lot more left indelible impressions. I basically would emulate her. And we met so many wonderful musicians and artists- some in our home!-particularly when my mother started producing the jazz fests- Kenny Burrell, Betty Carter, Zoot Sims, Dorothy Donegan, Blossom Dearie, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Barrett Deems, Pepper Adams, Muddy Waters—I could go on and on. Meeting all these great people made wanting to be a musical artist a tangible thing- something I could really aspire to. 3. Why did you decide to leave Chicago and move to New York to pursue a professional career in music and acting? de Haas: I wanted to perform on Broadway. And I did many times! 4. You will be back in Chicago appearing in Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn at the Auditorium Theatre on November 21st. You released a recording back in 2002 entitled Day Dream (Variations on Strayhorn) so obviously the music has been an influence on you for many years. What does Billy Strayhorn’s music mean to you? de Haas: It will always mean 3 things for me- the turn in my career when I wanted to be more than a Broadway performer. I wanted to be an artist. It means artistic integrity. It also means connecting on a very deep level emotionally as well as musically. You don’t step into Strayhorn’s music lightly- you must commit, and allow yourself to take the journey, and it takes time, years, to really grow into it. I’m still on the journey. 5. The upcoming performance will feature you, Joan Curto, Alan Broadbent, a full orchestra and big band, a 30 person choir and the Joel Hall Dancers. What challenges does a show like Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn for you as a performing when there are so many different elements of the show? de Haas: Well it’s a huge undertaking and I’m so grateful they asked me to do it in my hometown of Chicago. It’s very humbling and as far as performing it, it’s sort of like in theater or being on a bandstand with other musicians or being on a team—we will be passing the ball to each other, feeding off the energy of each other. Of course the chorus will be the center of the show so hearing their voices raised in these glorious melodies will just spur on each of us—the dancers, the orchestra, Alan, Joan and myself to bring the best of ourselves to it. I think it will be very exciting. 6. How much input did you have during the planning process in regards to which Billy Strayhorn compositions to include in the production? Also with such a large production is it difficult to still put your own interpretation into the music? de Haas: Because this concert had been performed before in LA and New York (where I also did it though it will be a little different in Chicago) it is already a set thing more or less, so I basically needed to be plugged in. There was some discussion with Bruce Mayhall Rastrelli, the creator and musical director, as to what songs I would do, what I would sing with the chorus, my self-written tribute to Billy Strayhorn which is being put in, etc. I’m lucky in that my 2 big solo numbers (Lush Life and Pretty Girl) are being done with the fantastic Alan Broadbent and I get to do my interpretation. Plus I’m excited to lead off “Something To Live For” with the chorus. 7. After the performance on November 21st do you have anything coming up in 2015 or 2016 that our readers should be aware of? de Haas: I am set for some concerts in New York in December and January. I have some concert travel in the early spring and I am also in the cast of the upcoming Broadway show, “Shuffle Along” opening April 2016. Visit DariusdeHaaz.com for more information

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