Newmark Theatre

Molly Ringwald

Ravens Flight Creative and Hennepin Studios welcome iconic actress, author and chanteuse, Molly Ringwald, and her jazz quartet, to the NewmarkTheatre to perform songs from her new album, Except Sometimes.

Molly Ringwald’s Concord Records debut, Except Sometimes, had been a lifetime in the making.

Long before she became known as a Golden Globe-nominated actress, Ringwald was singing. She started performing with her pianist father’s jazz band when she was three and she has never stopped. “I had quite the musical repertoire,” she recalls with a laugh. “It was pretty much traditional jazz but there was some Bessie Smith and Helen Kane, the original Betty Boop.”

Talk with Ringwald for even a short amount of time and it’s clear her grasp of jazz and its history comes from a lifelong study of the form and the great singers who inspired her, including Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie and Susannah McCorkle. “Blossom Dearie was the only one I got to see live. Susannah’s recordings have really influenced me. I think she was really special in her gifts of interpretation and how much humanity she brought to the songs.”

However, the time wasn’t right until now.  Paul Mazursky cast the then 13-year old in Tempest, and for the next few decades, her public focus was on acting, as she starred in such films as Fresh Horses, Betsy’s Wedding, King Lear, The Pick-Up Artist, and, of course, her trio of films with John Hughes, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink.

“Once I started to act I felt like I had to make that decision,” she says.  Plus, during the ‘80s, “I didn’t think there was a place for the music that I was interested in,” she says. “There was no Madeline Peyroux, Diana Krall, Norah Jones... I didn’t feel like anybody was going to listen to the kind of music that I wanted to sing. I thought, I’ll just keep singing with my dad and focus on my acting.”

Ringwald recorded Except Sometimes with Peter Smith, who also produced, on piano, Clayton Cameron on drums, Allen Mezquida on alto saxophone, and Trevor Ware on bass. Together, they put a new spin on such jazz and musical standards as “The Very Thought of You,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes),” “I’ll Take Romance,” “Sooner or Later,” and “Where Is Love.”

“It was really hard to narrow it down,” she says, of selecting the album’s 10 tracks. “It was basically songs that I felt connected to and songs that I felt we played together well as a band. As much as I love traditional jazz, my real interest is more modern, more from the Great American Song Book.”

Ringwald’s confident, sultry vocals are bolstered by her impeccable sense of phrasing, adding nuance, poignancy and even humor to her delivery. “I grew up listening to the music and my dad talking to me about phrasing,” she says. “It’s something I’m always working on and thinking about. It has a lot to do with connecting with the lyrics.”

Though she’s fond of big bands and may record with one someday, Ringwald deliberately decided to make Except Sometimes with the four piece band. “I wanted to take a snap shot of this particular time as a group together,” she says. “I wanted this to be small and intimate.” That it is. There’s a snug immediacy and warmth to the tracks, as if Ringwald is singing directly and only to the listener.

As a full time actress, mom and author, Ringwald, who starred in “Cabaret” on Broadway, as well as Jonathan Larson’s musical, “Tick Tick Boom!,” fit in her singing when she could, but she made a quantum leap in 2004 when she met Smith. They were appearing on Broadway together but it wasn’t until the wrap party, that they realized they were both musicians with a love of jazz. But their initial partnership was short-lived:  “He moved to Los Angeles and the dreams were dashed, but then I moved here and we finally got going in 2008,” she says.

She’s savvy enough to know that some people like to confine their celebrities to one discipline, but talented and wise enough to be undaunted by such a limited view.  “If I took that criticism, I would never do anything. Ultimately, the work speaks for itself.”

Plus, she’s already gotten the ultimate compliment about Except Sometimes from the one person that matters most: “When my dad listened to the album, he was just over the moon,” she says. “That really made me feel great.”

The one song her father didn’t know? Album closer “Don’t You Forget About Me.” “He said, ‘I can’t really figure that one out. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before’,” she says with a laugh. Of course, her 73-year old father was hardly the demographic for the Simple Minds song, which opened and closed the now iconic “The Breakfast Club.”

The song is a sly nod to her past as a teen queen and a sweet homage to director Hughes, who died in 2009.

“He was very much in my thoughts. I wanted to do a tribute to him and that time and connect it all together, but do it in a different way,” she says. The song neatly ties up her past, which she embraces, and her present in a way that honors both and looks ahead to her future: “I believe in evolution,” she says. “This is where I’ve come from and this is where I’ve evolved. I don’t want to be a different person.”

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