Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Chaise Lounge

There’s something about 1962 that just works for Charlie Barnett. Between the stylish clothing and the great music, this anachronistic performer says he’d liked to have lived in the late 50s and early 60s, and the music he makes with Chaise Lounge is no doubt a reflection of his desires to go back in time. In both their covered tracks and their original works, the band updates that classic jazz sound of a smooth chanteuse backed by strings and brass, making what Barnett considers Modern Songbook music.

Every once in a while, Barnett and the band will fool loyal fans with a new track. They’ll ask the band if the track they played was an overlooked hit from what Barnett calls the “golden age of songwriting,” maybe a deep catalog Cole Porter or George Gershwin track.

Nope, it’s just the product of six career musicians making a hobby of transporting listeners to a hip 60s lounge through music.

The band got its start about a decade ago when Barnett, a film composer, was sharing a studio with Marilyn Older, a Wammies nominee and singer-songwriter. Praising Older for her pitch and phrasing, Barnett recalled how he would ask the singer to try out bits of songs he was writing and the two built a friendship.
After going their separate ways, Older called Barnett with a musical proposition.

“She called and said, ‘You know, this separation of ours is not working out, can we have a band together?'” Barnett said, laughing. Barnett enlisted the talents of his favorite studio musicians – Tommy Barrick, Gary Gregg, John Jensen and Pete Ostle – and together the group set immediately about not only performing, but also recording as Chaise Lounge.

“I do a lot of recording outside of Chaise Lounge, so the idea that we would have band and not record was just unknowable to me,” Barnett said. “I’m always trying to keep the band recording.”

The band has released three albums with inventive originals and faithful covers of standards, and is sitting on two albums of material yet to be released – an album of all band-written songs and a full Christmas album, which includes four holiday songs penned by the band.

The band has been together ever since, but took a brief hiatus while Older gave birth to her children. Their reunion concert, just a few years ago, was not as one of their regular haunts like IOTA or Blues Alley, but at a friend’s wedding.

“We snuck back,” Barnett said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so slick, but we got together and said ‘wow, we didn’t lose a step.” Everybody still loves it.”

Being in a band with such seasoned musicians is both a blessing and a curse, according to Barnett, as scheduling around their musical careers is a challenge, but the band members bring professional talents to the table that make the band what Barnett calls a “pretty efficient machine.” They generally perform four shows a month, going on mini tours throughout the East Coast, and Barnett said a European tour may be in the works.

While the next few steps in Chaise Lounge’s path are still being plotted, Barnett enjoys performing regularly with the band and looks forward to their two shows, one set for Aug. 28 at IOTA, and another set for Oct. 15 at The Barns at Wolftrap.

“Right now, I get so much joy out of just performing,” Barnett said. “Being in front of an audience is something I’ll never let loose of. Everybody in the band is a good performer, and I think we all – when it gets to be show time – we always remember, ‘oh yeah, that’s what’s fun, performing these songs for people.'”

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