Ageless Garfunkel covers 'cherished songs'

The Pittsburg Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania)
April 26, 2007
By Regis Behe

Pop music, according to ArtGarfunkel, is "in the air."

And while it's easy to suppose it's a phenomenon born in the '60s, Garfunkel says he remembers "going to the dry cleaners and you're a kid, way back in the '50s, and it was 'Someone to Watch Over Me,' by Jo Stafford (playing). It's our shared American heritage of cherished songs."

Garfunkel performs Saturday at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

On his latest release, "Some Enchanted Evening," Garfunkel covers "Let's Fall in Love," "I Remember You" and "It Could Happen to You" -- songs that have been part of the American canon for generations. Garfunkel thinks these songs endure, not only because they are good, but because they still exert an influence, consciously or otherwise, on contemporary songwriters.

"This is what I call a good song: the idea of A, A, B, A, and structure, verse, verse, release, back to verse," Garfunkel says. "It's called classic ... and it probably comes from these songs. These songs set it down as the template (for contemporary music)."

The performances on "Some Enchanted Evening" are sterling, from Garfunkel's vocals (which seem as ethereal as ever) to the execution by the studio veterans including drummer Steve Gadd, guitarist Dean Parks and producer Richard Perry.

"We didn't do foxtrots, we didn't do a genre of the past," Garfunkel says. "We tried to make them great, sexy, slow-dancing rock 'n' roll. That's where I'm really coming from. The groove is everything, and that's the familiar approach taken by all the studio aces I know."

While most of the songs date back more than 50 years, one song in particular is striking. "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)" is one of the "newer songs," Garfunkel says, from the early 1960s. Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz and Ella Fitzgerald all recorded versions of the song, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Reciting the lyrics as if he were a Shakespearean actor -- "I who was lost and lonely, believing life was a bitter tragic joke, have found with you the meaning of existence" -- Garfunkel calls it, "strong stuff. It's Jobim, a master writer."

What's striking is how Garfunkel sounds engaged by the material. At 65, the trademark tenor that was such an intrinsic element in his collaborations with Paul Simon seems as if he has not suffered wear with age.

Garfunkel describes his performance simply, saying that the initial impulses that first drew him to music still engage him.

"It's an ageless thing to get in front of the mic and chase after these melody lines," Garfunkel says. "You leave age when you're at work. You're still a kid looking for buoyancy, you're still trying to show your love of the song with the heart. The act of loving is the same act, the fire in the eyes is the same fire, at any age."

He brings a similar enthusiasm to live performances. No one could blame Garfunkel if he deigned not to tour, but he embraces the road with the same zeal he has for recording.

Why else, he asks, would he tour?

"There's no way I would give my life to something I didn't enjoy," he says. After Simon and Garfunkel disbanded, Garfunkel says, they had enough money to spend life as "constant philosophers."

"From now on boys, do what makes sense to you because there's no other reason to do anything else. You had the glory and the money. What else do you need in that direction?" he says. "So now, whatever you do, it better be your love, it better be organic, true to what you feel like doing. That's what my life's been."