Chaise Lounge to bring Modern Songbook style to Germantown -- Gazette.Net



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This isn’t the chaise lounge found at a furniture store.

The only similarities the band Chaise Lounge shares with its namesake sofa is that both may inspire shoes to be kicked off and martinis to be consumed. The cool band with the tongue-in check name will perform Thursday at BlackRock Center for the Arts for the venue’s final Third Thursday performance of the season.

The six members of Chaise Lounge set their own boundaries for their blend of 1960s inspired lounge music and will be performing tracks off their fourth studio album, “Insomnia.”

The album features a handful of offbeat covers including “Bali Ha'i,” “Ode to Billie Joe” and “If I Only Had a Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz.” The remainder of the tracks are originals written by composer extraordinaire Charlie Barnett, who has written more than 400 scores for film and television including “Saturday Night Live,” “The Cosby Show,” “Third Rock from the Sun” and the 2008 documentary “Kicking It.”

Chaise Lounge formed 12 years ago from a group of studio musicians that Barnett used in his work. He met singer Marilyn Older at a recording session, and began using her to experiment with tracks he was working on.

“I had never heard anybody quite so in tune. Her sense of pitch is phenomenal,” he says. “The more I kind of used her as a sounding board the more we figured out that we got along on every conceivable level and musically we were just kind of hand-in-glove,” says Barnett of Bethesda.

Older eventually suggested that they form a band, so Barnett gathered some of his favorite studio musicians to round out the billing, including Tommy Barrick on drums, Gary Gregg on saxophone, John Jensen on trombone and Pete Ostle on bass. The original lineup has never changed.

“We get along personally. We get along musically. There is a chemistry between us that is infectious and loving and all of the things that you would want out of a family,” says Barnett, who plays piano and guitar in the band.

Each song that Barnett composes has a storyline, sometimes drawing inspiration from three separate corners, such as in “The Whole Wild World,” which is about Elvis Presley, California earthquakes, and a disastrous love affair all at the same time.

“I know they sound like they don’t fit together, but they do,” he says. “Once you fit in all these parallel tracks running the same direction and you’re hopping back and forth between these three speeding trains, I think it’s literarily interesting, and I think people enjoy following the ride on these songs.”

Although Barnett now composes most of the songs, Older wrote several songs for Chaise Lounge’s first CD. She since has hung up her songwriting hat and been enjoying the ride as the group’s frontwoman.

Older says that when Chaise Lounge started 12 years ago they were lumped in with bands that were reviving the 1960s sound for a younger generation, but quickly realized that the people they resonated with were an older crowd that actually remembers the music they are referencing.

Early on, Older says the band was leaning toward familiar standards, but as it has progressed its members have taken more risks and been able to zero in on their sound thanks to Barnett’s niche songwriting and the contributions of all of the musicians.

“This is a band that is made up of extremely talented jazz musicians, and blended together it is its own musical personality,” says Older of Alexandria, Va.

At some point Older says the group experimented with songs that had a more modern feeling, but they quickly were scrapped.

“There were songs that were a little more current that we tried, but they didn’t feel Chaise Lounge enough,” she says.

Barnett says he always struggles when asked to define the band’s sound, but recently has embraced a made-up genre he calls modern songbook — songs that feel modern, and yet also are reminiscent of Great American Songbook classics.

Chaise Lounge named their label Modern Songbook after the same concept, and soon hopes to produce albums for other artists with a similar sound, Barnett says. Chaise Lounge’s fifth album will be released on the label in October and will be comprised of Christmas music.

Just like the color television sets that captivated America in the 1960s, Barnett hopes Chaise Lounge’s retro tunes will transport their audience to another world.

“I want them to feel like they are in the hands of a terrific storyteller, and I think that’s what you get in Marilyn. When she sings these songs, she has nearly an uncanny ability to put you in the scene of this song. You’re feeling what that character is feeling,” he says. “I think a lot of these songs are somewhat cinematic, the audience gets to participate in these little five minute movies where they are the lead.”

ccalmaio@gazette.net