MICHAEL FEINSTEIN’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK kicks off its three-part second season February 3 on PBS, with a multifaceted journey through the history of American song by the acclaimed musician and five-time Grammy®-nominated vocalist. Produced and directed by Amber Edwards of Hudson West Productions, MICHAEL FEINSTEIN’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK gives viewers an intimate look at Feinstein on stage, behind the scenes and on the road, where he has all-new adventures in his quest to celebrate and preserve the gems of classic American music. The show airs Fridays, February 3-17, 2012, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS.
“I don’t know if it’s some sort of karmic thing that I am supposed to be given all of these recordings and pieces of music to preserve,” Feinstein says in the show, “but it’s clear that for whatever reason, it is also my responsibility to share it and get it out there.”
“In our second season, we continue to find a surprise around every corner — and what unexpected corners we turn,” says Edwards. “Las Vegas, Kansas City, the Mississippi Delta, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion — everywhere we go we find that this music reflects a different aspect of who we are as a people. It’s as if the American Songbook is an ever-spinning prism.”
MICHAEL FEINSTEIN’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK chronicles Feinstein’s lifelong mission to keep the Great American Songbook alive, as he champions the lyrics and melodies of songwriters like George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart, all while performing more than 200 shows a year across America. Season two further illuminates Feinstein’s passion for American song, as he meets fanatical collectors of sheet music, records, manuscripts and memorabilia, and solves an astonishing musical mystery. Feinstein and his fellow collectors represent a tiny world devoted to saving a gigantic body of work. Their eccentricities make for a colorful cast of supporting characters.
Filled with generous portions of live performance and a wealth of archival footage that puts the music in historical context, the series offers both an intimate portrait of a multi-talented artist and a fresh appreciation of 20th-century popular culture. It makes the material accessible to viewers who are new to the music and its history, yet offers sophisticated details and analysis for the connoisseur. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) honored season one of MICHAEL FEINSTEIN’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK with its Deems Taylor Award for Outstanding Musical Content.
o Episode One, “Time Machines,” explores how technology has preserved and altered the way we think about the great songs and singers of the past. Feinstein goes on a cross-country quest — even stopping at Hugh Hefner’s mansion — to uncover the various ways musical performances were documented, and the eclectic array of collectors and performers who are keeping that music alive. Includes a guest appearance by Hefner.
o Episode Two, “Lost and Found,” follows Feinstein’s discovery and authentication of an undocumented song by one of the giants of American popular music. Feinstein also persuades legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman to teach him an unknown song from his own songwriter’s “trunk,” one that’s never been heard prior to this broadcast. Includes a guest appearance by Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole.
o Episode Three, “Saloon Singers,” examines the allure of musical nightlife, from Mississippi juke joints to the neon lights of Las Vegas. Feinstein delves into the history of nightclub entertainment, from the Cotton Club to Sinatra’s Rat Pack. In addition, he talks to pioneers of the form, including entertainer Rose Marie, and poet and author Maya Angelou, who once made her living doing a calypso club act in San Francisco.
MICHAEL FEINSTEIN’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK is part of PBS Arts, highlighting PBS’s ongoing, multi-platform commitment to the performing and visual arts that gives millions of viewers a front-row seat and back-stage pass to the best music, theater, dance, art, and cultural history programs on-air and online. For more information, www.pbs.org/arts.