Known for co-hosting the public radio program Words & Music and for her live tributes to Tin Pan Alley icon George Gershwin, Spider Saloff is a Chicago-based jazz vocalist with a clean, uncomplicated, straightforward approach. On ballads, Saloff can be a vulnerable, tender, and introspective torch singer; on up-tempo material, the Windy City resident can be fun and playfully swinging. Because Saloff has devoted entire concerts to the Gershwin songbook and obviously has an extensive knowledge of the classic Broadway theater music of the '20s, '30s and '40s, some have described her as a cabaret artist. But even though Saloff has attracted her share of attention in cabaret circles and has performed at some cabaret-friendly venues, she prefers to be categorized as a jazz vocalist -- and, to be sure, her approach is more jazz than cabaret. Saloff scats and improvises -- two of the main things that jazz vocalists are known for doing -- and the people who have influenced her the most are definitely jazz-oriented, including Anita O'Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Julie London. When Saloff scats, one can tell that she has paid very close attention to Fitzgerald's scatting (which isn't to say that she is actually emulating Fitzgerald, or anyone else). Saloff has cited the innovative Betty Carter as one of her favorite singers, but unlike Carter, Saloff isn't part of jazz' avant-garde and doesn't go out of her way to be abstract or cerebral. Saloff work is much more accessible by mainstream standards. Saloff isn't a native of the Windy City; she's originally from the Philadelphia/southern New Jersey area and lived in New York City before making Chicago her adopted home in 1994. After that, she became a fixture on Chicago's jazz scene, appearing at the Green Mill, the Gold Star Sardine Bar, and other clubs that are well-known in Chi-Town jazz circles. It was in 1996 that Saloff began performing concerts devoted entirely to Gershwin's music, and she has toured the United States offering Gershwin-only concerts. The vocalist's Spider Saloff Sings Gershwin tours not only included famous standards like "S'Wonderful," "I've Got Rhythm" (which was the basis for countless bebop solos), "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me," but also, some rare Gershwin melodies that members of the Gershwin family gave her access to. One of them was a song called "Lonely Boy," which was written for the play Porgy & Bess but ended up being omitted in order to make room for a reprise of the famous "Summertime." In the '90s and early 2000s, Saloff recorded several albums for the Kopaesthetics label; those releases included Sextet in 1995, Memory of All That: A Celebration of Gershwin in 1997, A New Set of Standards in 1999, and the Christmas-oriented Cool Yule in 2000.
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