"When Lamphere begins singing, everyone becomes very aware that this is not some non-chalant thing. It's an event!"
CHICAGO, Dec 26, 2016 - During his brief amateur boxing career, that included a memorable fight against the eventual champion of the lightweight division in the Chicago Golden Gloves, many thought that Frank Lamphere (LAM-fear) hit like a heavyweight.
Today, with the "Sweet Science" an old but pleasant memory, Lamphere is a professional singer in the highly specialized genre known as traditional pop (Sinatra, Bennett, Connick Jr.). Vast portions of his performances and repertoire are presented in big band and straight ahead jazz and Lamphere has proudly considered a vocal "heavyweight”.
An analogy can easily be made of a boxer working his way through the ranks to a title bout, to Lamphere's prominent rise in music. His musical journey began with hundreds of rounds of karaoke, mini sets with Italian wedding bands and eventually, beneficial sit-ins with such local (Chicago) musical luminaries as: pianists Buddy Charles and Billy Pierce to popular bands like those of Tony Smith and Jim Beebe. These early proving grounds helped lead to steady vocal work with the Johnny Gabor Trio, at the Flame of Countryside, and thus cemented Frank’s musical future. On off nights hanging out at jam sessions, cocktails aside, Frank would soak up bigger than life stories, wisdom and methods of top jazz musicians. These experiences, along with his over-the-top repertoire (thousands of songs), and newly acquired PA system, gave Frank the confidence to seek out (where many had gone before) work of his own. And did he find it! A steady stream of club and hotel work (lasting about five years) ensued; all the while learning, improving, forming. It’s worth noting that at the time Lamphere began singing, primarily on weekends, his day job was first as a cook then a remodeler and residential carpenter. After a handful of years and ever the self-starter, Lamphere dove head-first into the deck contracting business A-Affordable Decks, where he is still deeply involved, after more than twenty years.
In time though, Frank outgrew the club scene. He wanted to take his performance to the next level and believed this could best happen while working with a larger band. Frank built a website: ratpackjazz.com, recorded a full length album (attracting national attention), sang with other prominent bands, advertised his services in wedding magazines, bought charts from other band leaders and began bringing in work from non club sources, from all over the country. Instead of singing to 45 listeners in a little jazz club, Frank now had his own powerhouse band performing to 300-500 attendees of a gala or fundraiser.
Though music is a tough business to succeed in, Frank never had the desire or temptation to perform solo. That is, using background tracks (like many singers) in order to secure more work. He has insisted on performing with a live band which consequently eliminated some opportunities, eagerly filled by others. But if success can be measured, not just in terms of quality of jobs and income, but by the admiration and respect from both fans and colleagues alike, then his, is a story of success.
It took some time, but Lamphere has climbed high up the “musical ladder”. From this enviable position, Frank can survey with pride his many accomplishments. He has sung for radio and television commercials, performed in numerous shows (including headlining) across the Midwest, New York and Milan, Italy. Frank’s EP of original songs Frank Swings, is being heard on radio stations around the world. One of the songs from the EP is in fact, heard in an award winning independent film. He has been hired across the U.S, by those in the know, to sing for special occasions, birthday parties and wedding receptions. His services are more in-demand than ever, especially in the Chicago area (where he lives).
What is it about Frank Lamphere’s singing that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries? At his core, he is a pop singer. The type that made their mark on popular music after the Second World War and who had a largely uncontested run for twenty years. He thoroughly enjoys what he does. He sings with passion and gusto, in a very masculine, yet believable way. Not Broadway! Not cute! Like the boxer he was, he has many “offensive” options at his disposal. His specialty swing feel could be likened to a left jab; rhythmically moving into the pocket, probing the audience with various degrees of tempo; waiting for the right moment to deliver “the haymaker”, the ballad. And rather than make them ring, Frank's crooning is filled with rich, flowing vowels that caress the listeners’ ears. Add some blues, old time rock, Latin dance and Italian music and it adds up to a well rounded singer that's able to give lots of people, lots of looks. Unlike a tried and true jazz singer, Lamphere doesn’t try to completely reinvent a song, for the sake of being different. It’s not his thing. He will frequently make a time signature, tempo or subtle harmonic change and all the while, swing wildly. Make no mistake, his version of a tune will bear his stamp. Frank works with some of the strongest rhythm players on the scene; they lay down the groove while Frank "bobs and weaves" around them and "lands" the lyrics in all the right spots. This not only gives potency to his phrasing, but also adds a finger-snapping element, that is a force to reckon with. Combine superlative timing with a warm and at times brassy yet effective baritone, intonation that with time has gotten even smoother, laser-like pitch, showmanship in droves and vocal range that can nail a Bb; well then, that will probably help to explain what separates the men from the boys and what has put Frank Lamphere at the top of the division.
It's a different ring that Frank climbs into today. It's one where he can really land some "shots" but unlike boxing, leave the target begging for more. 2014 was a fruitful year for Lamphere who headlined at the Chicago Festa Italiana, sang before 22,000 at the United Center in Febrauary and had a nice gig at the Palms in Las Vegas. He plans on entering the studio in the near future to record his third CD. Needless to say, he'll be going for a knockout!
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