Micah Barnes plays it cool at The End Of A Love Affair — his latest single and video showcasing today on Tinnitist.
“It felt like time to give folks the torchy barstool ballad,” the Toronto jazz veteran and former Nylons member says of the sad yet sensual oldie from his Vegas Breeze album. “Every Vegas entertainer seems to have that moment where they sit on a stool, in the middle of the spotlight, and sing about the heartbreak of a love affair gone wrong. It’s the flip side of the Vegas high life, when the glitter and neon have faded and our high-rolling hero admits to being a loser in love.
“In some ways, The End Of A Love Affair is the perfect saloon song. The listener never drowns in the emotion, but stays buoyed up in its mood of sophistication and intelligence. After all, what happens when we are suddenly alone at the end of a love affair? We may drink too much, talk too loudly, drive too fast, but hopefully we’re still in the game, hoping to love again. So the rhyming scheme of this song alone makes the singer sound ‘world-weary and wise’ rather than broken and desolate. How grown-up and true to life experience.”
These qualities are what sold Barnes on the vintage number in the first place. “What attracts a singer to a song? Is it the melody? The lyrics? The overall mood? Or is it perhaps the emotional response to another artist’s performance? With The End Of A Love Affair, it is for all of those reasons. The band and I chose to arrange the song as a sensual and slow bossa nova, and give it strings that swirled around the lonely trumpet; an intimate vocal heightens the feeling of dissolution and despair. Once pianist and arranger Michael Shand worked his magic re-harmonizing the verses, I felt we’d deepened the languorous mood and really put our own stamp on the song.
“Certainly, this little-known standard written by Edward Redding lands firmly in our concept of avoiding the ‘regular Vegas playlist,’ ” he continues. “Many fine versions exist — including by Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra — but it’s actually Johnny Hartman’s 1956 bolero version that made me excited to try it myself. After laying the bed track with the trio — including Russ Boswell on bass and Al Cross on drums — and getting that classic bossa nova feel on guitar with Rob Piltch, the next move was to bring in master trumpet man William Sperandei; his soulful playing makes this essentially a duet between two heartbroken guys, all surrounded by Don Breithaupt’s deliciously silky smooth string arrangement. The results perfectly express the kind of mid-century torchy ‘cool’ I was hoping to create on Vegas Breeze.”
The video was one of Barnes’ most intricate and complicated shoots, he says. “We gathered a top-level team — including our leading lady, burlesque superstar Laura Desiree, plus choreographer Dayna Tekatch (resident director of Come From Away), award-winning lighting designer Kimberly Purtell, and my long-time collaborator, director Carlos Coronado. We shot in six locations over seven shooting days, both before and after the lockdown — including the legendary alternative theatre, The Theatre Centre, where I started my professional career.”
More on that: Born in Vienna and raised in Canada, Barnes cut his teeth in the cabarets and jazz clubs of the city while still a teenager, before touring the world as a member of the a cappella group The Nylons. The years since have seen Barnes developing as an International solo artist with top-charting hits and albums. Most recently, he completed a 14-date digital cross-country tour. “I’m one very grateful jazz singer,” he shares. “COVID-19 has affected so many people in so many ways, and I appreciate the opportunity to ‘travel’ into the ears and hearts of so many with this unique concert series.”