Feinstein, Michael (Jay )
- Colette Simonot
(b Columbus, OH, Sept 7, 1956). American Singer, pianist, and music archivist. He has been one of the premier interpreters of American standards. More than an entertainer, he has been dedicated to preserving the repertoire of the great American songbook. Feinstein first studied piano at the age of five but soon quit his lessons, preferring to play by ear. As a teenager he performed at weddings and parties in Columbus, Ohio, and after high school he played in local piano bars. In 1976 he moved to Los Angeles and met Ira Gershwin, who hired Feinstein to help catalog his phonograph collection and organize archival materials. For the next six years, Feinstein was Gershwin’s musical assistant, working with him to preserve the Gershwin family’s musical legacy. Through his relationship with Gershwin, Feinstein earned access to many unpublished songs by Gershwin, several of which he has since performed and recorded. After Gershwin’s death in 1983, Feinstein devoted himself to performing music of the 1930s and 40s. He played regularly at the Mondrian Hotel, gathering support from local luminaries like Liza Minnelli. In 1986 he opened at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where he recorded his debut album, Live at the Algonquin. This album was followed by Pure Gershwin (1987) and Remember: Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin (1987). In 1988 Feinstein garnered national acclaim for his one-man Broadway show, Isn’t It Romantic (1988), and an album of the same name. That same year he won a Drama Desk Special Award. In the 1990s Feinstein embarked on a songbook project, aiming to record a series of albums dedicated to specific songwriters. To date he has completed albums devoted to the music of Burton Lane, Jule Styne, Jerry Herman, Hugh Martin, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and Jimmy Webb. As of 2012 Feinstein owned the Manhattan nightclub Feinstein’s at the Regency, where stars such as Rosemary Clooney, Steve Tyrell, Glen Campbell, Diahann Carroll, and Lea Michele have performed. Feinstein has performed a holiday show there annually. He has also acted as artistic director of the Palladium Center for the Performing Arts (Carmel, Indiana), which has hosted an annual Great American Songbook Festival, and in 2010 he became director of the Jazz and Popular Song Series at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. Feinstein’s award-winning three-part PBS series Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook (2010) recounts the history of American popular song to 1960. In 2010 he was appointed to the National Recording Preservation Board, dedicated to guarding America’s musical heritage.