Spider Saloff Exudes The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee

Night Life Exchange New York

Spider Saloff Exudes The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee

May 1, 2018


By Marilyn Lester**** Spider Saloff is so darn appealing you just want to wrap her up and take her home. The singer is a bubbly package of entertainment perfection. She’s poised, witty, personable, smart and most of all, in possession of a glorious voice. In The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee. Saloff chose to honor a singer whose style matches her own very well. Saloff has that same smoky, purr that was attributed to Lee. But what makes the former so entertaining and appealing beyond great vocal chops is her natural enthusiasm and animation, which make for excellent story telling.


Covering Lee from cradle to grave, she rolled out an absorbing narrative with song choices that fit the text beautifully. Peggy Lee was born Nora Egstrom in rural North Dakota, soon knowing she wanted much more than life on the plains. She headed to Los Angeles, where Saloff began with a knowing, “The Best Is Yet to Come” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh). Lee’s life was intense, with lows illustrated in tunes like the blues song “Black Coffee” (Sonny Burke/Paul Francis Webster) to the heights, such as in “It’s a Good Day” (Dave Barbour/Peggy Lee); this is a song Lee wrote with her new husband in what was to be the first of four marriages, all of them ending in divorce.

Saloff has an amazing ability to get into a lyric and live it from the inside out. Her delivery of “Black Coffee” painted a picture so vivid it was easy to picture the action and mood of the song. She brings a song to life. She’s into it, and she expresses it with the dynamic energy of her whole body, When Saloff sings “I Love Being Here With You” (Bill Schluger/Peggy Lee) the sentiment is completely believable. She is, to employ an overused term—authentic.

Lee had a small film career and a bigger songwriting career. The two were combined with the songs she wrote for Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, with Sony Burke; Lee also voiced four characters in the animated film. After a few bars of “We Are Siamese,” Saloff delivered a full-bodied “He’s a Tramp” with the jazzy kind of swing that defines her as primarily a jazz singer. She also scats and gave a taste of it on “Why Don’t You Do Right?” (“Kansas Joe” McCoy), a bluesy number that made full use of her feel for jazz. In closing, and noting Lee’s death at age 81, Saloff chose “Is That All There Is?” (Jerry Lieber/Mike Stoller), a tune closely based on Thomas Mann’s short story Disillusionment. Yet, In Saloff’s hands the Lee best-seller was not so much about disappointment as it was about triumph.

Piano man, Jeremy Kahn, is a cool jazz cat and a tremendous asset to Saloff. The two are in a groove, synced to the wide-ranging moods and tempos that comprised the set. Kahn is a master of dynamics and modulation, delivering a sprightly touch on the keys where needed, to a stronger attack when drama was required. Bassist Dick Sarpola is one of the most agile of musicians, throwing hie entire body into the rhythm. His work as the sole accompanist on “Fever” (Eddie Cooley /Otis Blackwell, under the pseudonym of John Davenport) was bright and vibrant. As a trio of musicians, all are accomplished at inserting clever musical ideas into a number, which made for a splendid evening of musical story telling about the Cool Heat of Peggy Lee.

Spider Saloff, The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee, Rockwood Music Hall, April 29, 2018 at 7 PM.

Spider Saloff is a Pod Person


Chicago Jazz Magazine


Spider Saloff is a Pod Person



Randy Freedman


Spider Saloff is an internationally acclaimed jazz vocalist based in Chicago. In late 2017, Saloff began a music, talk and comedy podcast titled Spider Saloff’s Spider’s Web. A podcast is similar to a radio program, with the key difference being that listeners can tune into their favorite shows at their own convenience and listen to podcasts directly on their personal computer or media player. The term “podcast” is a combination of the brand name “iPod” (a media player developed by Apple) and “broadcast,” the traditional means of receiving information and leisure content on the radio or television. When the two words were merged, the terms podcast, podcaster and the art of podcasting was born.


Prior to the introduction of her podcast, Saloff was perhaps best known for her contributions as cohost of National Public Radio’s Words and Music. She also participated (along with fellow vocalists Frieda Lee and Dee Alexander) in the national touring Ella Fitzgerald tribute, “The Three Ellas,” and is known for her live musical tributes to Tin Pan Alley icon George Gershwin.


The All Music Guide’s Alex Henderson wrote, “As a vocalist, Saloff has a clean, uncomplicated, straightforward approach. On ballads, Saloff can be a vulnerable, tender and an 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. 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’s 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.”


On her podcast, Saloff usually sings brief excerpts from the well-known and often-recorded jazz standards that she is best known for. This both avoids her the difficulty of fitting them into a relatively brief podcast, as well as having her podcast fully respect the copyright fees that the composers would then be entitled to. On one podcast though, in early 2018, Saloff sang some complete songs that she had written herself. Two of them I was very familiar with, having heard Saloff sing them both in person and on CD.


Saloff introduced them on the podcast. “The first one I want to play for you is a title cut from a CD I did


called Like Glass that I co-produced with guitarist Steve Ramsdell,” said Spider. “This song is interesting. At least it’s interesting. It’s about losing someone in your life, about someone just drifting away from you. I remember I started writing this song in O’Hare Airport, coming to me all at one time. This is what happens. I usually start with the lyric and then suddenly the music starts appearing. I remember humming the melody into my cell phone in little segments and by the time I landed in San Francisco the song is finished. So this is that song that is the title of my CD, Like Glass.”


The podcast format offers the artist and audience a chance to bond and achieve understanding beyond a typical concert format. Here Saloff can explain in whatever detail she likes, both her creative process, as well as demonstrate the fruits of her labor, with the next best thing to a live performance. Saloff takes full advantage of the opportunity to explain to her listeners the thought process that goes through each element of developing a new song as well as its meaning to the songwriter and its intended meaning for her listeners.


“This next one is also from the recording Like Glass, and it’s funny that it could be taken in a lot of different ways, but it’s basically about seduction,” continued Saloff. “It’s a warning about someone who may be out there seducing you and you don’t even realize it.” [Song starts]


You better watch yourself with that one. He’s got a way you won’t suspect.

You had better watch yourself with that one.

You won’t know what you should protect.

At first it seems like he’s the sad one, and someone left him lost and blue.

But you will find out he’s the bad one, and soon there’s nothing left of you.



Saloff has a reputation as being one of our foremost interpreters of the music of George Gershwin. She is also a personal friend of the Gershwin family. She shared some insights on her podcast. “I’ve always been fascinated by the story of George Gershwin. He came from such a poor family on the Lower East Side of New York City. They had four kids, the oldest being his brother Ira, who is very quiet and shy and very smart. George was the second in line and he was sort of a wild kid who was out getting into trouble. He was big and athletic and very outspoken. Even though they were poor, the family thought it was very important to have music lessons. One day they were bringing a piano up to the third floor where they were taking it through a window on pulleys, and Ira Gershwin was in the corner shivering in his boots because he did not want to take piano lessons. Legend has it that George came upstairs and sat at the piano and played an entire piece. They said, ‘Sorry Ira. George is the one who’s going to get the piano lessons.’ Ira just wiped his brow and said ‘Whew!’”


Saloff then explained to her podcast audience, “One of the reasons that I became so prominent in my career is because of something very serendipitous. It happened in the early ‘90s while I was still living in New York and my musical partner Ricky Ritzell and I were still performing in clubs. Through a lot of complicated circumstances we were able to meet and love Leopold Godowsky III, who is the nephew of George Gershwin. He is a wonderful man, incredibly generous. He loved what we were doing musically. Consequently, he asked me to sing at his mother’s 85th birthday party in New York. Yes, his mother being Frankie Gershwin, George Gershwin’s baby sister. Frankie Gershwin was an incredibly wonderful, candid, lovely woman, who had been a singer in the ‘20s.”


Saloff later confirmed this with Frankie when she got to know her. “I asked her if she had a debut in Paris and this was our conversation.”


“Oh yes I did,” Frankie Gershwin replied.


“Somebody really famous produced that. I cannot remember who it was,” Saloff commented.


“Noel Coward—no—it was that other one, Cole Porter,” said Gershwin.


“Well, I heard that George played for you on opening night,” added Saloff.


“He did,” said Frankie, “but then he left. I guess he had better things to do.”


“When I opened the Gershwin (centennial celebration) concert,” explained Saloff, “Frankie not only attended, but she introduced me on stage and came up and sang in a red lace dress. She was incredible, and I was thrilled to know her. And she did hail her brother George, the genius.”


Podcasting has become a surprisingly popular new mode of communication. Personally, I listen to many different podcasts each week, hosted by diverse and interesting personalities on a variety of subjects and find them stimulating. These include, but are not limited to: Chael Sonnen on mixed martial arts, Adrian Wojnarowski on pro basketball, Rachael Maddow on politics, Steve Austin on professional wrestling and, yes, Spider Saloff on jazz. I urge you to give these or many other great podcasts a listening session very soon.


spiders web

Click for Spiders new podcast

Spider just awarded Bistro Award

Spider was just awarded the Bistro Award for Ongoing Jazz Artistry in NYC on March 13, 2017.

She performed a the ceremony along side luminaries, Darlene Love, Carol Woods and Paul Shaffer!  Here is her review that she received for show in NYC just days before the award!

bistro 1Spider Saloff

The Best of Spider Saloff

Pangea, NYC, March 8, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes


If there is anything negative to say about the glorious Spider Saloff, it’s that this jazz diva of impeccable musicality does not perform in New York City often enough. Lucky those in Chicagoland, where she’s based. Saloff knows how to put on a show and leave ’em begging for more—which is exactly what happened at the end of this outing at Pangea. After completing her set with a poetic interpretation of Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (sung as a love song – 180 degrees away from the Ethel Merman style of belting brashness), Saloff was brought back to the stage by a relentlessly applauding audience. With a delightful and unplanned “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” (George and Ira Gershwin), she was finally allowed to cap off an evening of her favorite songs. It was a repertoire delivered with heart and with a fine regard for nuance. Saloff can belt, but why should she? This diva knows from deep within that the power of music isn’t in how loud it is, but in the wisdom with which the words and music are presented.

What truly sets Saloff apart from the crowd is her empathy: she feels the song; she becomes the song. And she is willing to go into that territory of intense emotion. Her fearlessness in giving herself to a number yields a rare authenticity and truth, as with her renditions of  “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” (Tommy Wolf/Fran Landesman) and her own very personal “Deep Inside the Rain.”  Yet, the set was well balanced, with jazzy upbeat numbers, including “Deed I Do” (Fred Rose/Walter Hirsch), “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Cole Porter), and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Berlin) set to a foot-tapping Latin beat.

Saloff not only has a bright, personable and natural way on the stage, but her easy narrative provides context and texture to the music   — plus, she’s funny. Her comic timing made Porter’s “Tale of the Oyster” and Berlin’s “naughty” “You’d Be Surprised!” two delightful treats. With Musical Director, pianist and “partner in crime,” Ricky Ritzel, a counter-intuitive, lazy start to “The Joint Is Jumpin’” (Thomas Waller/Andy Razaf/J.C. Johnson) brought big laughs. Ritzel, Saloff’s long-time collaborator, shares an easy, comfortable chemistry with the singer. It’s also a pleasure to hear his sprightly artistry on the keys, matching Saloff’s variety and eclecticism note for note. Spider Saloff puts her own stamp on the music, and that’s the kind of intelligent, creative artistry that sets the gold standard for any kind of live entertainment.

This Spider spins a magical web


Bloomington, IL

Thursday February 22 2018

Dan Craft

This Spider spins a magical web

Spider Saloff: Not your typical très chic jazz singer handle.

“It’s a college nickname that would’t go away,” confesses the former New Yorker who switched home bases to Chicago in 1993. It came about, and stuck, because … well, because “I have very long legs and arms, very long hands, and a very short torso.”

Just like that certain member of the arachnid family.Lo these many years later, she calls the nickname “one of the best things that ever happened to me … I love it, love it.”

For fans of Gershwin, Berlin, Porter and all the other Great American Songbook providers, the same could be said for what’s in store for us Saturday night in Illinois Wesleyan University’s Memorial Center.When she comes along, we’ll definitely want to sit down beside her, Miss Muffet-style.

The occasion: Saloff in an intimate, cabaret-style concert that is serving as a fundraiser for Autism McLean, which this year is celebrating its 15th anniversary supporting McLean County individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“She has a wicked way with a  lyric, and a glint of self-controlled mischief,” wrote a New York Times critic, happily ensnared in her web.”She’s slyly sophisticated, easily accessible,” observed her hometown Chicago Tribune, also ensnared, willingly. “One of the finest jazz singers working in this or any other city.”

In addition to Saloff’s center-stage performance, the evening will also include a silent art auction featuring 70 items from local and nationally recognized artists.Among those items are film actor Val Kilmer’s laser-cut steel piece, “Love Forever”; a piece from digital painter Leigh Barbier, who has worked for Lucasfilm Ltd.  on several “Star Wars” sequels; and local sculptor Rick Harney’s Abraham Lincoln bas-relief sculpture in cast resin.

“I’m delighted to be coming back,” says Saloff, who has passed our way in grand style several times over the past two decades, including, most memorably, as the star of an all-Gershwin concert with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

This time, she’s bringing with her “two of my favorites from Chicago — Jeremy Kahn on piano and Jim Cox on bass. Both of these guys are fantastic, and have toured internationally with me as well.”

Between Spider’s vocals and the instrumental support, she promises a complete transportation to what could pass for one of the top jazz/cabaret rooms in Chicago, New York or Paris.

Saloff herself has long been ranked as one of the world’s premier Gershwin interpreters, as well as one of its finest jazz vocalists … period.

For starters, she was handpicked by the Gershwin family as one of the sanctioned performers on the Gershwin Centennial Tour, which began in 1996 with the 100th anniversary of Ira Gershwin’s birth and gained momentum in 1998 with the 100th anniversary of brother George’s arrival.

During this period, she headlined the biggest Gershwin festival in the world: the St. Petersburg Gershwin Festival in Russia (the family’s ancestral birthplace).

“They were a really wild audience there … they were standing on their chairs screaming,” she recalled in an earlier GO! interview.

Today, Spider Saloff still a Gershwin cheerleader, as well as one of the country’s most vocal boosters of the Great American Songbook in general … a passion that led to her co-creating and co-hosting the internationally syndicated NPR series, “Words and Music” (no longer aired ..,. but succeeded by her own current weekly podcast, “Spider’s Web” at www.blubrry.com/spidersweb/).

She calls her interpretative approach as the aforementioned songbook “presented in a very contemporary way, with jazzy stylings and some stories behind the songs.”

In her New York days, Saloff was a regular at such landmark venues as Michael’s Pub, the Russian Tea Room, the Algonquin, Feinstein’s and Birdland. After the Chicago transplant in 1993, you could find her anywhere with an ear for good music, from the legendary Green Mill to the Fairmont Hotel.

These days, you’ll likely find her at new and/or currently happening venues like Winter’s Jazz Club on the Chicago Riverwalk (April 10); the famous downtown seafood restaurant Catch 35 (April 14); and “the beautiful and spectacular and glamorous and very, very chic” PianoForte on Michigan Avenue, where she’ll be doing her new one-woman Peggy Lee tribute show in its Chicago debut (April 8).

For her trek downstate this weekend, Spider assures us she’ll be spinning a musical web guaranteed to make us her willing prey.

BYO curds and whey?

No, she says.

“Just come prepared to have a whole lot of fun.”




Swell Party: Cole Porter Celebration


Spider Saloff, the image of a modern day “flapper “, captures the jazz age in her celebration of Cole Porter. spider saloffHe was the toast of the jazz age and the ultimate party animal, Cole Porter! The concert features a collection of music from the composer/lyricist that has remains timeless to this day.
Saloff creates a wildly fun yet perceptive look into the life of the controversial genius and major figure of the American Songbook. Porter classics will be presented but Saloff with a contemporary twist but with a flare of the 1920’s and 30’s.

Song choices will range from the familiar to the obscure.  And the tales of Porter’s personal life are told with wit detail.  It is a tribute to Porter that is beyond compare!


Swell Party can be presented with piano and voice, with trio, quartet or quintet.  And can be presented in a select program for full symphony orchestra.


Featured songs:

Night and Day

So in Love

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To

Everytime We Say Goodbye


“If there is a greater, more electric and sensitive singer on the planet than Spider Saloff, my ears eagerly await.”

    -Rick Kogan

                                        Chicago Tribune/ WGN Super Station