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If showman Ian von Memerty (Handful of Keys, Strictly Come Dancing host and SA’s Got Talent judge) tells you his first original album is a Big Band collection, it makes perfect sense.
Everything about him screams showtime! He was first brought into the business by that glitzy, glorious showbiz dame Joan Brickhill, and from there he never looked back. Probably his biggest gift to the local stage has been both the creation, as well as his performance in, Handful of Keys. Not only did it open local audience’s eyes to the full spectrum of his talents, but it also opened the doors for many other gifted pianists who can sing and simply entertain. Like everything Von Memerty approaches though, you have to know your stuff.
And when you point to entertainers like Roelof Colyn and Jonathan Roxmouth, it adds to their shine that they have performed in this exacting show.
But back to his album. For someone who has spent most of his life making music on stage in some form, it’s almost impossible to believe that Von Memerty hasn’t got an album out there. It was time, he felt, and still it felt like giving birth. “The songs came faster than I could write and they’ve been very diverse,” he says. But that’s also how it comes across on the album. This one is about the performer and doesn’t reflect a specific genre other than the sound which is Big Band all the way.
Anyone who has seen any of Ian’s shows, whether solo or with his family, will realise that everything he does is driven by music. That’s what makes him move and turns his world – even if the rhythms might be for a very specific crowd.
He is a musical man, the kind where the lead singer comes floating down the stairs. Those are also the memories this album evokes. But remember, this is a man who knows every move to make when on stage. If that’s your particular bent, take a listen.
Ian and his family moved down to Port Elizabeth a few years back and perhaps that’s also why, finally, he produced the album. He had time on his side and much of the production time was spent focusing on the music – was it overwritten, underwritten or serving the song – as it should.
His time in the business has brought the best buddies and all of these stepped on board giving their time and expertise.
“None of them – even the best in the business – had any ego,” he says. “These were parked at the door.”
What he does best, says Von Memerty, is show tunes, and that perfectly describes the music on the album. And of course, as a pianist, all the songs are piano driven. Having waited so long before making his first album, he wanted it to be totally representative of his music and style. He didn’t want to focus on the numbers, or how many he could sell, but wanted something that he would listen to.
“Everything will sound familiar but it’s new,” he says of the music.
What he hopes is that the authenticity of the whole affair comes through. Everyone who worked on this one pulled together.
“It didn’t have to have a brass section, but we felt it could,” he explains.
From gospel to world music, Von Memerty believes he’s captured it all. If you’re a Handful of Keys junkie, you will know where this performer comes from.
You might think you could not watch that show again, you’ve seen it all. Then someone invites you, it’s your third or fourth time and you find yourself smiling from beginning to end. Simply because its that kind of show. Von Memerty is a genius at entertainment. That’s what he loves doing. It usually bowls audiences over and catches them unawares.
UR Fantastic is a very specific sound, but if it happens to rock your musical boat, you’ll love it.
That’s exactly what Mr Showtime is hoping to achieve. He simply wants to make music. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to that.
“You simply want to serve your audience.”