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MAVIS RIVERS - A BRIEF HISTORY
Born May 19, 1929, Mavis Chloe Rivers was born in Apia, Western Samoa into a musical family. Her Samoan father Moody Rivers was a sax player, and bandleader, who initially got Mavis interested in music, especially the standards and big band music of the day. Her Samoan mother Louisa eventually brought 13 children into the world and the family settled in Auckland, New Zealand. As the oldest child Mavis influenced each of her younger siblings as the family grew. Gathering for musical sing-alongs became a regular event through the years as music was so important to the Rivers family. As the Rivers kids grew many of them pursued music. Younger brother Harry became a very good drummer, and two sisters, along with Mavis, formed The Rivers Sisters who ended up recording many popular records in New Zealand. But In the mid-1950's it was Mavis who eventually stood out to become one of New Zealand's most popular vocalists, recording many records for New Zealand's biggest recording label. Eventually Mavis decided to pursue her dreams and move to the USA. In a very short amount of time her talents were recognized, first by Los Angeles-based ukulele virtuoso Johnny “Ukulele” Ka`aihue. Johnny, whose famous sister Mary Kaye was a Las Vegas lounge act mainstay, and who also was the uncle of Henry Kapono of Cecilio and Kapono fame in Hawaii, assembled a Hawaiian styled trio that performed all over the Los Angeles area hiring Mavis as vocalist & guitarist. The other member of the trio, whom mom eventually married, was my soon-to-be father, vocalist and bassist Dave Catingub.
As Mavis' vocal ability began to get more notoriety she set out to record a demo (a tall order in the late 1950’s!), and literally based solely on her incredible vocal ability landed her first recording contract with the legendary Capitol Records in Hollywood, recording her very first US album backed by the arrangements of the one and only Nelson Riddle.
After Being nominated as best new artist at the very first Grammy awards, and after recording three acclaimed LPs for the Capitol Records label, her label mate Frank Sinatra decided to end his own relationship with Capitol. His answer to the issues he was having with Capitol Records was to form and create his own recording label. Sinatra created Reprise Records, a label that would focus more on the music and artistry of its artists. Sinatra of course asked his “Rat Pack” buddies to join him immediately, including Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Joe E. Louis, Rosemary Clooney, and so many more of the finest singers and instrumentalists of the day. One of those vocalists, whom Sinatra nicknamed his “Swinging Lady”, was Mavis Rivers. As a result mom entered the studio in late 1960s to record what would be one of the first three initial releases on Sinatra’s Reprise records. Amazingly Mavis at the time was very pregnant, but everyone involved with the recording all mutually agreed that she should finish the album as soon as possible. The legendary Marty Paich (father of David Paich, the leader and founder of the rock band Toto) was enlisted to write the arrangements and back Mavis with his legendary Dek-Tette which included jazz legends Mel Lewis, Bud Shank, and Jack Sheldon, among others. After the recording sessions a photographer was sent to our home to take pictures of her for the cover of her album. Still very pregnant at the time it was only a couple of months later in March of 1961 that Mavis gave birth to me, her second son, Matthew Catingub. And with the release of her album simply titled "Mavis", my mother had completed her journey from Samoa to Sinatra.
FROM SAMOA TO SINATRA - THE PROJECT
This is the recording project I knew I HAD to do to do. When I lost my mom in 1992 my heart told me that one day I had to honor and thank her, not only for the musical gifts she blessed me with, but also to honor the music she loved, as well as the people that loved her, and made her career what it was, and by extension made what I have been able to accomplish in my life even possible.
My mother being pregnant with me at the time of her recording her first Reprise album can only be described as a fortunate stroke of serendipity. As you will read below I have had the opportunity to obtain my mothers isolated recorded vocals from that era, and I have been able to use this precious audio in the creation of my new project. The mere fact that I am singing with my mother in duet form, knowing that she was pregnant with me, is an indescribable experience. Jumping off script for a moment, but on a related anecdote, my mothers last full-length album recording, IT’S A GOOD DAY recorded in 1983, was recorded in the same studio that she recorded this first album for Reprise, with her son leading the band, rather than in her tummy. Mindbending for sure.
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My mother went on to record two more albums for Sinatra’s Reprise label, each of them garnering more praise and respect for this little girl from Apia Samoa. She passed away in 1992, as she had cosmically foreseen, while on stage doing what she loved: singing and performing with her son Matthew at her side. Since that night I had always wished there were a way to find one last opportunity to perform with my mother. Now, thanks to incredible advances in recording technology, I have been able to do just that, and then some. FROM SAMOA TO SINATRA is a musical love letter from her son to his mother. It’s a project I have long dreamt of completing and that goal has been accomplished.
As I write this I am happy to say I have made it to my 60th year on this planet. And in my career I have felt that mom has always been somehow helping me from afar. From getting a chance to honor her by singing at Carnegie Hall just a few years after her passing, to the wonderful journey I have had through the years as a Symphony Orchestra Pops Conductor/Performer, a journey that began in Honolulu Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, where my mother was laid to rest. This is the album I knew I always knew I had to record.
FROM SAMOA TO SINATRA - THE PROCESS
Assembled during an unprecedented time of a worldwide pandemic all of the performances on this recording were captured remotely in studios both professional and personal, as well as in socially distanced safe environments, such as the legendary Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia. In my career I have been fortunate enough to work with musicians all over the world. Because of this I decided to choose and enlist colleagues from coast to coast in the USA and Canada, and even Hawaii. Each of these musicians contributed their brilliant performances while in sequestration during the pandemic months of 2020 and 2021 and I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them.
The creation of this project has been a life long ambition of mine. It honors the music of both my incredible jazz vocalist "mommy," and one of the people I admire most musically and in life, the one and only Mr. Frank Sinatra. Each song was carefully selected for its relevance to each of these artists, as well as their place along the journey FROM SAMOA SINATRA
FROM SAMOA TO SINATRA - THE SONGS
It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
(Lyrics by Irving Mills, Music by Duke Ellington)
Duet with Mavis Rivers
We open this recording with a virtual duet of my mother and I on the Duke Ellington standard. She recorded this classic song for her first Reprise Album simply titled "Mavis", and this is the first instance of me duetting with my mother's recorded voice from 60 years ago, and while she was pregnant with me!
This Could Be It
The liner notes from Mom's 2nd Reprise album say that Frank Sinatra himself had this on his own personal list of 'Songs I Should Really Record'. My mother was one of the only artists to record it, and since it is a personal favorite of mine I wanted to include this swinger.
I Remember You
Mom recorded a fast swingin' version of this song on her third Reprise album, but I wanted to do a gentle version that wraps a lush string section around it. And lyrically I sing this lovingly for my mother.
Get Out And Get Under The Moon
A favorite song of mine that Mom used to do live, and also recorded it on one of her Capitol albums. I wanted to give this a kind-of Dean Martin swing swagger to it because it's just a real fun song to sing, and also let's the band loose as well.
On Second Thought
Lead Vocal-Mavis Rivers
Vocal Group-Matt Catingub
Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, composers of WITCHCRAFT, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME, among many other great standards, composed this song exclusively for my mother. On this one I placed my mother's original recorded vocal as the lead voice in a four-voiced virtual jazz vocal group and the results are just plain cool!
People Will Say We're In Love
Duet with Amy Hanaiali`i
Alto Sax-Matt Catingub
If one singer of Pacific Island heritage could be considered the carrier of the flame it would be my dear friend from Hawaii Amy Hanaiali`i. I asked Amy to sing this standard with me that my mother recorded on her first Reprise album. The obvious smiles on our faces as we sang say everything about the joy we both shared recording this duet!
There's No You
Guest Vocal-Mavis Rivers
This is a most special song as I chose it to sing at Carnegie Hall in tribute to mom, and it is my favorite of mom's recordings, and again she was pregnant with me when she recorded this. Mom starts singing the verse as she recorded 60 years ago, but morphs into my vocal in present day as I then sing this song FOR her.
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
Alto Sax- Matt Catingub
Recorded on her "Mavis" LP this song, and Mom's version, has always been a favorite standard of mine. Love that the McDuffie Center strings get a chance to be featured and 'swing' on this tune!
Mom loved Bossa Nova, and loved Antonio Carlos Jobim. And I loved how she interpreted both. And Sinatra famously recorded a number of Jobim songs as well. So I wanted to do my own version of one of the classic Brazilian jazz standards that both she and Frank loved to sing and gift wrap it with a gorgeous string section coating!
The Best Is Yet To Come
Duet with Mavis Rivers
Alto Sax- Matt Catingub
A true jazz vocal standard, and its title also happens to be Mr. Sinatra's epitaph. Thanks to modern recording technology I get to perform this song as a duet with my mother's voice excerpted from her third Reprise Album, whom by the way shows why Frank nicknamed her his "Swingin' Lady"!
All My Tomorrows
Another favorite ballad of mine. A song written for Mr. Sinatra and recorded by both he and my mother. Marty Paich's original arrangement for mom was just awesome I tried to capture the spirit of that while injecting my own style into my own arrangement
Alto Sax- Matt Catingub
The opening track from mom's "Mavis" LP. Arranger Marty Paich decided to not use a piano 95% of the time on this record, and only possible because of my mother's incredible musical pitch. With that I decided, in part, to mirror that concept, and also get a chance to feature my dear friend Kevin Axt on bass, who accompanied my mom for many years.
In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening
Piano- Matt Catingub
A shout-out to mom's time at Capitol Records. But this version of this song is special in that Capitol Records founder, and legendary songwriter Johnny Mercer, composed two extra line of luyrics especially for my mom, and I have included those in my arrangement!
Pick Yourself Up
"Tenor Sax"- Matt Catingub
Mom used to share a story about her excitement of watching Sinatra record this song for one of his Reprise albums. I was fortunate to re-visit this song when I arranged the music for George Clooney's Oscar nominated, and Grammy winning film Goodnight & Good Luck for which I arranged the music. This arrangement is based on the fun cha-cha version I arranged for the film.
Medley: Away In A Manger/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Vocal Group-Matt Catingub
During my mother's time at Reprise Frank Sinatra asked his artists to each record a track for an all-star Christmas LP. My mother was asked to record two songs as a medley. I have taken my mom's recorded vocal and wrapped a brand new arrangement around it using a "choir" and full band. This bonus track I hope will bring yearly Holiday smiles to all!
FROM SAMOA TO SINATRA - CREDITS
Produced by Matt Catingub & Allen Sviridoff
Recorded and Mixed by Matt Catingub
All Lead and Background Vocals by Matt Catingub (except where indicated)
Strings recorded by Rob Evans & Steve Moretti
Strings recorded at Capricorn Sound Studios, Macon, Georgia
String Sessions Co-Produced by Steve Moretti
All other recording done at individual recording spaces throughout the U.S. and Canada
All Arrangements and Orchestrations by Matt Catingub
Alto Saxes - Alex Budman (Los Angeles, CA), Tammy Danielson (Orlando, FL)
Tenor Sax - Larry Cook (Honolulu, HI)
Baritone Sax - Pat Beliveau (Calgary, AB Canada)
Trumpets - Dave Scott (Sedona AZ), Joel Spanky Gray (Edmonton, AB Canada), Jens Lindemann (Los Angeles, CA)
Trombones - Alex Isles (Los Angeles, CA), Brien Matson (Boston, MA)
Bass - Kevin Axt (Los Angeles, CA)
Drums - Steve Moretti (Macon, GA)
Strings performed by members of the Robert McDuffee Center For Strings at Mercer University, Amy Schwartz-Moretti, Director
1st Violins-Amy Schwartz-Moretti (Concertmaster), Anna Black, Virgil Moore, Ally Cohen
2nd Violins-Augusta Schubert, Caitlyn Clingenpeel, Chelsea Cline, Mimi Fan
Violas-Carlos Walker, Seido Karasaki, Alec Luna
Cellos-Peyton Magalhaes, Constantine Janello, Luis Parra, Lichi Acosta, Sara Scanlon , Juliana Moroz
Basses-Dylan Reckner, Kevin Axt
Matt Catingub would like to thank...
My Mommy Mavis Rivers - What a blessing it was to share Stage, Studio, and of course "Life". I love you and miss you every day.
Allen Sviridoff - as usual your vision and enthusiasm brought this project across the finish line. Thanks for a lifetime of career highlights. Oh and by the way thanks for the album title!!!
Amy Schwartz Moretti - your beautiful violin and your beautiful soul illuminate THERE'S NO YOU. Thank you for being there from the start of this project, for being a great friend, and for making "this" all happen.
Steve Moretti - For over 20 years you have been my musical heartbeat, my right-hand man, my musical partner, and one of the best friends anyone can ask for. Not to mention the finest drummer I have ever shared the stage with.
Kevin Axt - You are family. You were there when mom left us, and you've been around for all of the important life markers. I love you, thanks for always being there.
Warner Brothers - Thanks for preserving and providing the precious audio that has made much of this project possible.
To all the Cats (and kitten) in the band - throughout the years all of you have in one way or another helped me make incredible music, and your participation on this project means so much. Thank you for your friendship and your music!
To the brilliant and talented members of the McDuffie Center for Strings 2020/21 - your dedication and craft shine brightly on the performance you gave me on this project. Thanks again to each one of you and good luck in your future musical endeavors.
SiriusXM Radio - Thanks for supporting this recording, as well as my previous efforts. Honored to be in the rotation!
Matt Catingub plays Yamaha Saxophones and Theo Wanne Mouthpieces
From Samoa To Sinatra LIVE
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