Born: August 27, 1961 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
KEN SLAVIN IS BACK - AFTER A NEARLY ONE-YEAR HIATUS TO REGROUP AND REFRESH!
Some critics compare him to a young Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett. Mel Torme or Johnny Hartman. One interviewer dubbed him “Mr. Tuxedo Voice.” Texas Monthly says he’s one of the “Swing Set.” In reality, his smooth baritone voice, sophisticated persona and easy-going performance style put him in a category all his own. But no matter how you describe him, there isn’t anybody on the music scene today quite like jazz crooner KEN SLAVIN.
A self-described late bloomer who began singing professionally 19 years ago at the ripe old age of 29, Ken has worked hard to develop his art and craft while carving a niche for himself in a South Texas city known more for its rock, country and Tejano roots than its classic jazz sensibility. Now 46, he recently was voted “Best Vocalist 2007” by readers of The San Antonio Current, and over the years has been nominated numerous times for other music awards by the same publication. His success has been all the more notable because he has held down a full-time marketing career by day while pursuing his true passion of vocal performance by night and on weekends.
It is hard work, but I would rather sing than anything else, Ken says. I hope to make this wonderful avocation my full-time work someday!
He has conquered most major performance venues in America's 8th largest city, from the Alamodome, where he performed at the grand opening gala and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of numerous San Antonio Spurs games, to notable concert halls such as the historic downtown Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, the Majestic Theatre, the landmark Carver Cultural Center, the Ruth Taylor Concert Hall at Trinity University, and the Josephine Theater. He has opened for jazz legends Eddie Palmieri, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Branford Marsalis, The Four Freshmen, David Sanborn and Chico Hamilton, among others. He has worked successfully with such San Antonio jazz legends as Jim Cullum, Small World and the Regency Jazz Band.
His unique interpretations of jazz, pop and Spanish language classics and genuine rapport with audiences have made him one of the city’s favorite entertainers.
Ken currently appears regularly at III Forks in Austin's burgeoning Second Street District. He is also in demand for private parties, black-tie galas and other high-profile events. He will be spotlighted as one of San Antonio's local singing legends with a two-hour concert in the upcoming Intimate Series presented by the historic Carver Theater on October 23, 2009.
He wrote and starred in his first-ever jazz cabaret show in March 2006 at the newly restored Church Bistro and Theatre at King William near downtown. The two-act tour-de-force entitled “Just You, Just Me” attracted good audiences and critical praise. Ken plans to condense the show to take it on the road to major Texas cabarets and jazz clubs, and will offer it to out-of- state venues and cruise lines in the coming year.
Jim Beal, arts writer for the San Antonio Express-News, describes Ken as “quite possibly the city’s top saloon singer.” In addition to being a headliner for San Antonio’s Jazz ‘SAlive, he has starred in many self-produced concerts, appeared on numerous TV and radio programs, and is in strong demand for galas and private parties.
A testament to his popularity was a recent summer’s night “Concert Under the Stars” at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. More than 1,400 people braved nearly triple-digit heat to sit on blankets and folding chairs to hear Ken and his band perform, breaking the attendance record for the event.
He has entertained thousands at the Fiesta Oyster Bake (most recently as a headliner at the 90th anniversary of the event) and the nationally televised Fiesta River Parade and the Christmas River Parade. And he has headlined major fundraising events for such notable non-profits as the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, Any Baby Can, the American Heart Association, the Children’s Bereavement Center, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, the Landa Gardens Conservancy, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Leukemia Society, the YMCA and the USO. Ken is also a frequent guest on local TV and radio programs such as Lesli Bohl-Jones’ top-rated “4 San Antonio Living” on WOAI-TV (NBC), Jack Riccardi’s “Gang of 4” and “The Chris Duel Show” on 550 KTSA-AM and “The Sonny Melendrez Show” on KAHL-AM 1310.
Ken's CDs are included on numerous local radio play lists, including Trinity University’s award-winning KRTU-FM and San Antonio College’s KSYM-FM.
In 2001 Ken released his third self-produced album, The Song is You. It earned rave reviews locally and nationally and enjoyed strong sales. His other two albums, Fascinatin’ Rhythm in 1992 and Tender is the Night in 1996 (a fund-raising album for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation) received critical acclaim locally and nationally, as well as extensive radio airplay. Ken’s version of “Mack the Knife”� his “signature tune” with which he regularly ends live performances� is featured in a 36-track, two-CD set, Musica San Antonio, produced by the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ken's new CD, I'll Take Romance, was six years coming and he hopes it will help him earn notice for his work beyond San Antonio and Texas.
Awards:"Best Musician, 2006" - San Antonio Current Music Awards "Readers' Pick: Best Vocalist, 2007" - San Antonio Current Music Awards
REVIEWS OF NEW CD, I'LL TAKE ROMANCE:
JIM SANTELLA, CADENCE: Jazz and cabaret singer Ken Slavin has what it takes to make heartsmelt: a deep baritone voice that fills the room and a sincere approachto lyrics that reach out tenderly with genuine passion. Originally fromConnecticut, he settled in San Antonio where he works today with localmusicians and visiting artists. His recording session centers on the piano trio, which helps to lift his voice over this program of familiar songs. With pianist Morris Nelms, double bassist Chuck Moses, and drummer Kevin Hess, the singer gives each song a gentle caress and a big hug. Up-tempo romps satisfy as thoroughly as do his slow ballads. “Just You, Just Me” works the best in this context, giving the session a sparkle through its quick pace and energetic pulse. With slow ballads, Slavin takes his time and fills each phrase with deep feeling. . .Overall, the singer’s clear diction adds considerably to his image as a persuasive saloon singer. . .Alto saxophone and trumpet sit in for several numbers, congas add spice to the Beguine arrangement of “Day by Day,” and strings make several brief appearances that blend into the instrumental mix seamlessly. Slavin feels as comfortable with Brazilian romance as he does with Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen, and Harold Arlen: honoring a timeless songbook that will never be forgotten.”
SCOTT YANOW, L.A. JAZZ SCENE: During an era when male jazz singers are few and far between, a new recording by Ken Slavin is a welcome event...On “I’ll Take Romance,” Ken Slavin sounds warm and expressive on the ballads while cooking on the uptempo tunes, most notably “Just You, Just Me.” He sticks to the lyrics while his phrasing gives the music a strong jazz feeling. Joined by pianist Morris Nelms’ trio, a few guest soloists (including trumpeter Al Gomez) and occasionally four violins, he swings his way through 16 standards including “Tea For Two,” “I’ll Take Romance,” “Day By Day” and “Summer Samba,” making the vintage material sound fresh and lively. This is a fun CD that is easily recommended to fans of the small field of male jazz singers.
GILBERT GARCIA -- SAN ANTONIO CURRENT: “A sultry, late-night ode to love...a seductive 16-song collection that features both the lushest texture (particularly with the string-laden bookends “Thoughts of Your Smile” and “I’ll Take Romance”) and the most intimate, casual vibe ever heard on a Slavin album...More than most contemporary interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Slavin delights in turning his material sideways, making even the most familiar tunes sound like new discoveries...”
JIM BEAL -- SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS: “Through hard work, determination, innate chops and...good sense...Slavin became a first-class singer with a repertoire that transcends nostalgia. And it hasn't hurt that Slavin has become a top-flight showman. ‘I'll Take Romance’ is a romantic effort indeed, packed with ballads including But Beautiful,... and Alone. To describe the CD as anything but beautiful would be a mistake. Though it's ballad heavy, with only a few selections, including Just You, Just Me and Day by Day, hitting the up category, Slavin's voice is excellent, Brake's production deft and the music, by Slavin's band and a few talented guests, is exactly what the songs call for.”
AARON PRADO -- KRTU 97.1 FM “JAZZ FOR SAN ANTONIO”: “The new CD is really special. We’ve been playing it pretty much every day since we got it, and I did a 30- minute feature a few weeks ago on the South Texas Jazz Project show. I hope the disc is getting national attention, because it deserves to be heard in L.A., New York City, etc.”
BRAD CHAMBERS -- “MARTINI IN THE MORNING” (INTERNET RADIO SHOW, SHERMAN OAKS, CA.): “Because we NEED guys like you with a passion for this music to get it in front of as many people as possible...I not only listened to I'll Take Romance, but we'll give it it's first Spin on MITM…YOU are the real hero in this Great American songbook renaissance we're seeing...so we're here to help...Can't wait to hear more...”
CD BABY -- RECOMMENDED JAZZ/EDITOR’S PICK: “Velvety, smooth and compelling classic jazz vocals by one of today's most exciting singers. Recommended if you like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Johnny Hartman.”
The Song is You (2001)
Tender is the Night (1996)
Fascinatin' Rhythm (1992)
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