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Suvalsky’s ‘Hot Jazz’ to benefit MJDS
February 18th, 2009
To Milwaukee native Andrew Suvalsky, “singing feels really, really good.” And that, combined with the audience response he receives when performing, makes for a wonderful experience.
“Everyone should find something that makes them feel like that.” Suvalsky told The Chronicle in a telephone interview from his home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan last week.
Suvalsky, who turned 40 this week, will be visiting Milwaukee soon to give a homecoming concert, “Hot Jazz for Cool Nights,” to benefit the Milwaukee Jewish Day School.
Slated for Saturday, March 7, the concert will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel Milwaukee, 139 East Kilbourn, at 7 p.m. There will be a silent auction and dessert reception preceding the show.
The youngest of four siblings, Suvalsky has two sisters, Kim Teplinsky and Lori Suvalsky now living in Minneapolis, and one sister Julie Zvi, who lives in Milwaukee.
“The concert [for MJDS] was Julie’s idea,” Suvalsky said. “I want to help the school, both as a personal gesture to my sister and her children who attend,” but also because he has been impressed with the way their MJDS education has promoted “a level of openness, spirituality and understanding that one doesn’t often find at such a young age,” Suvalsky said in a release.
He said he had been thinking about performing here, but not just anywhere in the city. “I want it to be fairly high profile and [I want to] reach out to the people I used to know” and also to people who appreciate this kind of music.
Not a jazz purist, Suvalsky said that ultimately he cannot resist music with “catchy, swinging rhythms. It conjures up an image and an atmosphere that I really like. It’s happy.”
Called Andy when he was growing up in Fox Point and Bayside, he has been working as an interior designer and jazz singer in New York since he moved there from Chicago more than 10 years ago.
“I was always interested in spaces and buildings,” he said. He studied architecture at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., as an undergraduate and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he earned a master’s degree in urban planning and architecture.
Though he found he did not want to work as an architect, he “always had eyes for the big city” and after earning his master’s, he went to Chicago. There he began his musical career as part of the Jackie Allen Jazz Improvisational Group at the Old Town School of Music.
Soon after, he was regularly performing with the Old Town Jazz Finesse at the Fairmont Hotel and with the Up And Coming Jazz Review at Magnum Supper Club. He was also doing design work, he said.
But “desperately craving creativity,” Sulvasky said he had the urge to try “the next big city,” New York. In 1998, at age 29, he sent out his resume and was offered a job at the leading New York interior design firm, Benjamin Noriega Ortiz.
Though he said he wasn’t really qualified, at that time, for the position of senior designer they were seeking to fill, the firm’s owner liked him and hired him as his assistant. There, at what he referred to as “the Harvard of interior design,” Suvalsky learned and was encouraged to pursue his creative interests, which included his music as well as independent design projects.
About five years ago, with enough of his own work to form an independent firm, his employer “pushed [him] out of the nest” and he began to devote his design career exclusively to Andrew Suvalsky Designs.
Suvalsky said he has always felt at home in New York. For one thing, his mother’s family originally settled there. He likes the Jewish and the international character of the city and feels that being surrounded by people of all kinds fosters tolerance.
In addition to his two careers, he enjoys playing tennis and his active social life. He is involved with the Kabbalah Centre and sings for people in the later stages of HIV/AIDS with the organization “Hearts and Voices.”
His first CD, “Vintage Pop and The Jazz Sides,” on the LML Music label, was released in 2006 to “overwhelmingly positive reviews and two sold-out shows at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club,” according to a release. In 2007, he won the Back Stage Bistro Award for jazz vocalist.
His Milwaukee concert will feature music from his new CD ”A World That Swings,” also from LML Music, with Bennett Paster on piano and organ, Steve Wilson on alto saxophone and flute, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Gregory Ryan on bass and Keith Hall on drums.
“A World That Swings” is Suvalsky’s tribute to such 20th century performers as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. “They were the embodiment of mood, ambience and joy,” he said.
Tickets for “Hot Jazz for Cool Nights” are $36 in advance and $40 at the door. Contact Michaela Peck at 414-964-1499 for tickets.