Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Liza Minnelli on Her New Album ‘Confessions’ and Perfoming at 64
Liza Minnelli finished her latest album, “Confessions,” earlier this year while recuperating in her New York City apartment after knee replacement surgery. The record is meant to capture the feel of what she calls her laid-back evenings spent around her piano singing with various famous friends.
The album showcases artists she grew up listening to, songs by her godfather Ira Gershwin and classics such as “At Last” and “All the Way.” She is backed by longtime accompanist Billy Stritch on piano. Though she got some notice earlier this year for her cover of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” for the widely-panned movie “Sex and the City 2,” she’s going a more traditional route on this record, which goes on sale today.
Minnelli, the 64-year-old Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar award-winner (“Four Tonys—ha, ha!” she corrects), has been performing the new material in cities including Chicago, San Diego and Roanoke, Va., with more stops planned in the next few months. She recently took a break from rehearsing that show to talk with Speakeasy—a 10-minute phone call in which she called us “baby,” insisted we call her Liza and realized she had to call Tony Bennett.
The Wall Street Journal: You recorded some of this album at your home?
Yeah, I mean, we were in the piano room. Some of it was in my bedroom. The days I couldn’t walk on (the knee), we had to do in the bedroom. It was hilarious.
Did the record help you get through your knee surgery?
It was slow and painful, you know. I’ve got two false hips and a wired-up knee, so the hips were nothing. This was painful.
Do you and other performers your age talk about what happens as you get older, the changes that happen to your voice and body?
Yeah, but you know what? You’re sitting with people who are going through all of the same thing. We don’t have to discuss it. We just get up and sing and have dinner and laugh.
How did you choose the songs for this album?
They’re songs that we’ve done at my house forever when I have musical parties—people come over, (eat) Italian food, and then everyone would end up gathered around the piano, from Tony Bennett to Janet Jackson. We were relaxed because we were only singing in front of each other, so it had a quality to it, and that’s the quality I tried to achieve on this.
How’d your recent performances go? Any snafus?
Well, nothing in these last three, but I’ve had costumes that break on stage and I have to go behind the piano and say, “Uh, can somebody please bring me a new pair of pants?” And I do it because the audience is in it with me. What am I supposed to do, pretend it’s not happening? No!
What do you think of the plans to remake your 1981 movie, “Arthur”?
“Arthur”? I have no idea. What do you think?
I’m wondering whether you think Russell Brand can play the Dudley Moore role.
I remember saying, “Oh, really?” And thinking of Dudley and then saying, “Well, you know, time marches on, so you go ahead and march, honey, but there’ll never be another Dudley Moore.”
When you make an album, do you think about whether you’ll win a Grammy?
I never think of that. …I think from the audience’s point of view—like, the new album would be great at a dinner party, in the bedroom and just listening to it if you’ve had a hard day, in the car.
What do you tend to listen to in those circumstances?
Oh, so much, I guess because I’m a dancer I love Lady Gaga…. Tom Waits I used to love and then I’ll listen to “Ella Sings Gershwin” or Tony Bennett. At one point when I moved to New York, all I had was a record player, a small one you plugged in, right? And every Tony Bennett album in the world—before furniture.
Has Tony Bennett heard your album?
I don’t know. I just got back. I must call him—thanks.