Jazz Monthly: Well, if you want to be physically transported and emotionally moved, you must check out my next guest here at JazzMonthly.com. She’s a fantastic vocalist, she’s a dancer, she’s a singer, an actress, she’s just done so many things with such a great life, and she’s about to release a fantastic new CD. It is called Krazy Love and you must check out this great record. Please welcome the incredible and ever so beautiful, Ms. Luba Mason. Luba, how are you, my friend?
Luba Mason (LM): I am really doing great and that’s Krazy with a K, my friend. (Both laugh.)
Jazz Monthly: That’s right! And that’s a different kind of Krazy too, you know?
LM: Oh, you betcha, you betcha.
Jazz Monthly: I want to say, first of all, with all that you’ve done—and we’re going to talk about a lot of the great, fantastic things you’ve done in your life in music and in theater and TV—I want to say that if not already, with this new record, you have whether you know it or not, confessed to be great.
LM: Wow, thank you, Smitty. I appreciate that very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Yes indeed. Now, just going back in time, because I love to relive the past when it’s cool, and you certainly have such a cool past in that as a young person, you started out training in classical voice and piano and dance, talk about how that happened because that’s not something that just happens by chance.
LM: No, it doesn’t. I think what happened is I’m first generation American, my parents are from Eastern Europe, both my parents are musically inclined and have beautiful voices, but because they’re immigrants, they just never pursued their love of music. So therefore they wanted to instill and invest their love of music into their daughters, which is where my journey, my trip, began. So as a young kid, immediately my parents wanted to buy a piano for my sister and I, and the next thing I know, at the age of five, I’m taking piano lessons and I excelled at it.
I trained for 12 years in classical piano, which then led to singing in choirs, because I always loved to sing and belt at the piano and play, and that led to singing lessons, and because I had an older sister who became an opera singer from Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard, I was fortunate to start training voice with her teachers from Juilliard and Manhattan School in New York, which then led to my love of musical theater in high school. When I started doing musicals, I just loved the combination of acting and singing and dancing, and wanted to train more in acting because I had no training at that point. I was more musically trained between the piano and the singing and the lessons. So I applied to the NYU School of the Arts and Circle in the Square Conservatory, which is affiliated with NYU, and auditioned for their drama program and got accepted, got a BFA in drama.
Jazz Monthly: Wow.
LM: At that point, I was also wanting to train in dance and one of my first jobs straight out of college was with the American Dance Machine, which was a dance company, but basically was a living archive of the big Broadway dance numbers. The company would recreate the original choreography of Broadway dancing. And I trained and performed with this dance company for five years. After that I got into my first Broadway show, which was the first of eight or nine, and coming back around to this album, Krazy Love, I basically came back to my roots as a musician. After all these years of training in piano and voice and dance and acting and performing on Broadway, which also led to TV roles and guest roles in film and commercials, my love of music in general, I think my first love has really always been singing and music, which is where I started. I just needed to come back to that. And gosh, I want to continue on this route some more.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and I can speak for thousands and say we’re glad you are.
LM: Thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Let’s talk a little bit more about some of those wonderful Broadway roles you had. For example, the Will Rogers Follies. For anyone that has seen that, what a fantastic—
LM: It really was a great show. Its creators were Tommy Tune, Cy Coleman did the music, you had Adolph Green and Betty Comden doing lyrics. It was just a fabulous creative team to begin with. It was also my first hit Broadway show. And the whole concept of combining the wit and just intellect of Will Rogers himself with the Ziegfield Follies was, I thought, kind of brilliant. It made for a wonderful Broadway show. The fact that I’m five foot ten, they needed show girls for this musical (both laugh) and it was funny. My first few Broadway shows I was hired as a dancer, not because I was such a great dancer but because most of the dancers—generally dancers didn’t sing as well. They were called dancers who can sing. I was someone who sang really well and could move well and was sort of a dancer. So I think I kind of got into Broadway that way in my first few shows and there was this voice and literally a singing voice inside of me that was singing in the chorus but I just needed to show that I could do more than dance because dance was kind of the least of my talents. However, that show in itself, the experience, was pretty tremendous for me, and that show began to open doors for me in the business because it was such a hit.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and it won a Tony as well, right?
LM: It won, I think, like five or six Tonys that year, possibly even seven. I mean, I don’t know what the record is. I think The Producers got the record, maybe nine Tonys, but I think that show got about six or seven Tonys. It kind of swept the Tonys that year.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and Luba, you were not a one-hit wonder either because you had a featured role in Paul Simon’s The Capeman.
LM: Yes, yes I did.
Jazz Monthly: Tell me about that.
LM: Well, that actually came after How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was my first big role on Broadway as a comedienne starring opposite Matthew Broderick, and that show began to open doors which led immediately into Paul Simon’s The Capeman, which was like THE show of the season. It was planning to be THE show of the season. That show was a turning point for me in many ways because, number one, Paul Simon wrote the show with Derrick Wolcott. The fact that Paul Simon, this pop icon, wrote a show in the medium of musical theater on Broadway and combined the mixture of Latin music, all of a sudden everything kind of started to come together for me as a performer because I came from such a diverse background. I came from classical, I grew up with pop music, I was in the midst of being a Broadway performer and a singer, but he was Paul Simon kind of combining all of these elements that I grew up with. I just loved the idea of having all these elements come together in one medium, which then led to me wanting to do my first album, Collage.
Jazz Monthly: Yes.
LM: Which was a real eclectic album, but it had all the elements of pop, jazz, folk, with Latin arrangements and rhythms. And also with The Capeman I have to interject was the first time I was exposed to Latin music. I had never listened to any kind of Latin music before.
Jazz Monthly: Did that help you with your dance role?
LM: You know, it’s funny because the only other way I was familiar with Latin rhythms was from my dance training.
Jazz Monthly: How ‘bout that?
LM: Yeah, I could do the samba and the merengue and all of those, but I was familiar with rhythms but I was never familiar with this whole world of Latin music, and it was also that show where I met my future husband, Ruben Blades.
Jazz Monthly: Yes.