Only a few weeks remain to catch pianist Johnny Gabor and his band in Stanley's Lounge at the William Tell, for an evening of dining, dancing and cocktails. Gabor, who has played The Pump Room and had Frank Sinatra sit in with him at Chicago gigs, leads his ensemble in performing the American songbook and Rat Pack favorites. The group's vocalist is Connie Marshall.
They perform 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 5:30 to 9 p.m. most Sundays in March in the William Tell Restaurant and Holiday Inn complex, 6201 Joliet Road, Countryside. No cover is charged. For more information, call the William Tell at 708-352-1101 or visit www.holidayinnwilliamtell.com.
About the artists
Here are excerpts from our recent feature on the band.
Fans can catch music from their CDs played on WDCB 90.9 FM radio from the College of DuPage, in Bruce Oscar’s “All Things Jazz,” and John Russell’s “Midwest Ballroom” from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturdays. And during the Bulls season, they repeatedly provide part of the pre-game entertainment at the United Center. Marshall, who lives near Stickney, notes they played The Flame Steakhouse in Countryside for years, appearing at the bittersweet final night of its operation on New Year’s Eve a year ago. She and Gabor discuss their music.
What do you perform?
Johnny, who has been … playing since he was a child, is phenomenal. We’re doing standards (such as) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire’s ‘The Continental,’ ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz,’ all the beautiful Latin numbers, American Songbook, Rat Pack music — Dean, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra. Throw in some rock and roll and disco, and maybe even a Cee Lo Green song. And we’ll probably play a few favorites of folks who are there for listening, dining and dancing.
Talk about your career, Johnny.
I started out at a very young age, my dad, (a violinist), grandparents (and) uncles were professional musicians. They taught me the music (and) the business and I’ve been playing ever since. I played the Pump Room, Maxim’s, (the) top places on Rush Street. (At) The Four Torches, Sinatra used to come in when he felt like it after a concert, and sit in (with us) and sing.
In addition to Sinatra, you have other big names connected to the group.
Connie: One of our drummers, Rusty Jones, toured with jazz pianist George Shearing, and he worked with Marian McPartland. His great uncle was Isham Jones, who wrote ‘It Had to Be You.’
Playing dance music is a specialty?
Connie: We have a lot of very good dancers who come on Sundays from Willowbrook (Ballroom). They sit at a long table just for them. They ask for Argentine tangos. Johnny Gabor plays them beautifully. He knows how to play for dancers. He knows the tempo that they need for a fox-trot or a samba. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, Lady Cha Cha (joins us on percussion, playing) bongos, maracas, tambourine, any type of rhythm instrument, and once in a while castanets for flamenco.
Where did you train, and what do you love about your career?
Connie: The American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. I was studying opera and musical theater. The whole experience of being able to use the talents that God gave me … seems to make me happy, and it seems to make my customers happy, especially if I can do a special song that they really like. My big number is “This Is My Life (La Vita)”; that’s requested a lot. I can put a lot of dramatics into (it).
(Note: Among Marshall’s favorites is her recording of Gabor’s song “Do You Really Love Me?” on her album “Inspired.” [www.conniemarshall.com])