Clooney returnsThe last time the Star-Bulletin talked with Rosemary Clooney, the jazz and pop vocalist wasn't so much focused on her upcoming Honolulu Pops concert with good friend conductor Matt Catingub as she was about visiting the North Shore and tasting "real shave ice" again.
A sentimental musical journey
By Tim Ryan
This time around, Clooney -- who is visiting with a small group of close friends and relatives -- is still looking forward to a North Shore visit but excited abut meeting with "my buddy Matt" and his band the Big Kahuna and Copa Cat Pack.
The 73-year-old singer recorded her latest album, "Sentimental Journey," earlier with Catingub, and last month performed with him and the band in New York.
"I'm so grateful to (them) for making me feel 25 again, even if only for a little while," Clooney says, repeating a sentiment from the album's liner notes. It's her 27th album for Concorde.
"Takes my breath away to think I've done that many and that's only the Concorde label," she says in a telephone interview from the Beverly Hills home she's owned since 1953.
But "Rose," as she insists you call her, is less focused on accolades and more on what makes for good music and a good life. One of the joys of being "a girl singer in a band" for more than a half century is not the financial reward but the different musical experiences she's had.
"I worked with Bing (Crosby), Nelson (Riddle), Frank (Sinatra) and so many greats who all taught me something that allowed me to last," said the mother of five.
"Bing helped me tremendously. He made me understand what a singer must do and how hard that is.
"I remember he looked me in the eye and said, 'Rosie, we have to tell a story in three minutes, acting it out, communicating a feeling, getting it across to the audience in a very short time.' "
Composer Nelson Riddle's advice came in three words: "Tell the story."
Clooney obviously learned from those two icons.
"You don't have to sacrifice the story to get the beat, and you don't have to stop the rhythm to make the love story work," she said.
Clooney makes a lyric come alive, taking a song heard dozens of times, like "That Old Black Magic," and turning it into an intensely personal testament.
"The song's words have always been the most important to me," Clooney said. "The ones I choose to sing are the ones that make sense to me, literally and emotionally.
"I've come to understand that people really do relate to the music. I think that can be a wonderfully shared experience within the audience."
Which brings us to her latest album, "Sentimental Journey," which Clooney calls "sorta autobiographical."
"I started with big bands and I loved going back to those memories to do this," she said. "It's great to see those same kind of young faces like the ones I started with. Unfortunately these boys don't have the experience of knowing me when I was younger."
Surprisingly, Clooney plays no instruments or reads music.
"Just never got around to it, I guess," she says.
Her personal favorite song is "How Will I Remember You," although she can't remember its author.
"It's about all the relationships we have in our lives that eventually end or pass but will always remain very important to you," Clooney says, as she sings:
"How will I remember you?
What a foolish question, sweetheart mine."
Performs with the Honolulu Symphony & the Copa Cat Pack
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
When: 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow
Tickets: $15 to $55
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