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A Personal Collection : Stephanie Haynes, with a repertoire of 400 to 450 tunes, has a reputation for doing jazz interpretations of standards.

July 23, 1993|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Bill Kohlhasse is a Marina del Rey writer

Singer Stephanie Haynes has her own version of the popular bumper sticker: "So many tunes, so little time," she complains good-naturedly.

Haynes has a strong commitment to the American songbook in general, and jazz standards in particular, matched by few vocalists.

"I'm not going to do a Stevie Wonder number anymore," she said. "I sang pop tunes when I started working professionally, but never again."

With a repertoire that she estimates includes between 400 and 450 tunes, the vocalist, who appears Thursday at Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks, has come a long way since she was studying flute at UC Santa Barbara and some of her fellow students asked her to sing with their combo. At the time, she knew only two songs: "Misty" and "Satin Doll."

"Now people come and hear me because I have a reputation for doing jazz interpretations of standards, and that's fine with me," she said in a recent telephone conversation from her San Juan Capistrano home.

"I've got to perform material that I can live with and doing these songs year after year has served me very well. They don't call them standards for nothing," she said.

Her favorite composers include Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. Her 1988 Discovery album, "Here's That Rainy Day," (with pianist Cedar Walton), is a collection of tunes from Jimmy Van Heusen.

"Cole Porter is a particular favorite of mine," she said. "And I love Duke Ellington. If I could, I'd sing every song he ever wrote. Although some of the lyrics are crummy, the music is always great."

Recently she's been exploring contemporary Brazilian composers, such as Ivan Lins and Dori Caymmi.

"There's a rhythmic element that makes their writing particularly beautiful," she said.

With so many songs at her command, Haynes is able to avoid relying only on the chestnuts.

"Sure, you get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again; you get tired of hearing 'Misty.' But there's a whole bunch of other music out there that remains somewhat neglected, like some of the more obscure stuff from Ellington," she said. "I don't know too many people out there who sing Billy Strayhorn's 'Lotus Blossom,' or 'Day Dream.'

"But most musicians are familiar with them," she continued, "and for good reason: They've got good melodies and chord changes. You don't have to do anything special to them; they take care of themselves. And people say, 'Wow, where did that come from?' So when I can, I like bringing these tunes to a wider audience. They're too good to be ignored."

At Le Cafe on Thursday, she will perform with a trio made up of bassist Jack Prather, pianist Karen Hammack and drummer Paul Kriebich.

"I like Jack's tunes," she said. "He's one of the few composers in the contemporary vein that writes in the style I like. Jack comes out of the Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart tradition, then puts a Dave Frishberg spin on it. His lyrics are very witty.

"Jack and I sing together in that Jackie (Cain) and Roy (Kral) style," she said. "And there's other material that Jack has written, including a tune called 'Up the Amazon,' which is a spoof on environmentalists."

Finding work, whether as a single or with a group, has increasingly become a challenge.

"The opportunities to perform have been cut way back. I'm really not working as much, maybe three or four gigs a month. . . . The scene is much sparser and clubs have closed," she said.

But Haynes continues to find herself in demand. In addition to Le Cafe, she recently appeared at San Diego's Horton Grand Hotel with pianist Dave Mackay, and she appears one night a month at the Hotel Laguna with guitarist Mark Turnbull.

Orange County-based Holt Recordings released her CD with saxophonist Jack Montrose, "Dawn at Dana Point," earlier this year.

WHERE AND WHEN

Who: Singer Stephanie Haynes.

Location: The Room Upstairs at Le Cafe, 14633 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: 8:30 and 10 p.m. Thursday.

Price: $4 cover, two-drink minimum.

Call: (818) 986-2662.

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