Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tinatin's Life-Long Dream

As I began working with dear friend Tinatin on her memoir about a young Georgian/Soviet girl with a big dream to sing her way into the Western world, one common thread that runs throughout the manuscript is her longtime long-distance relationship with renowned jazz musician Dave Grusin.

As an audacious teen discovering the Western world via the early days of the Worldwide Web, she happened upon the email address of the pianist—whom her father not only admired, but dared to purchase his music at a time when anything that originated across the border was considered sinister—if not a crime to import. Papa also indulged his daughter in contraband Barbra Streisand albums, at great risk, which she used as a template to develop her English-language skills.

Fortunately, Tina's innate talent was destined to break on through to the other side. As the walls came down in the Soviet Union, she traveled as a teen to London, then New York, working with the likes of songwriter Denise Rich and multi-Academy Award-winning duo Marilyn & Alan Bergman (who collaborated with Grusin on "It Might Be You" from "Tootsie").

Tinatin now lives in New York and as Smoking Nun readers know, she is acclaimed not only as a singer, but for co-writing 2009's runner-up Eurovision Song Contest winner, for Iceland.

All well and good... but as we continued to move forward with her story for the memoir, one vital piece was missing: T had yet to meet Grusin. With the master musician serving as a mentor for more than a decade, how could we possibly close the book without a face-to-face meet?

Friday: Mission accomplished! I got an urgent alert from Tinatin just after midnight Thursday, asking if I was available for a surprise. I called her immediately: "Chris Neil is in town? No, wait, is it DG?!" She refused to give away the goods...

We met at 7 p.m. Friday in Times Square, and she led me to the legendary Iridium Jazz Club, where Les Paul held residence for years. Sure enough, headlining at 8 and 10 p.m.: Dave Grusin.

I'll save the full story for T's book, but as we took seats in the front row of the intimate venue, Tinatin was all a hot (fun) mess, full of "what if's." "Honey, we're going to make this happen," I assured. "You know my mantra: The answer is yes until someone says no." Leaving nothing to chance—imagine being so close and then, for whatever reason, the man vanishes—I headed backstage, found Mr. Grusin, introduced myself and said, "There's an old friend of yours here tonight: Tinatin from Russia." He smiled warmly and assured that we would visit after the gig.

We enjoyed both 70-minute shows, accompanied at times by trombone, stand-up bass, flute and drums, with Grusin on piano; mesmerized as he offered the ultimate indulgence: "It Might Be You," accompanied by a cellist who made love to his instrument onstage. It moved T and me to tears. And afterward...The end. Literally. At last. Now we have the requisite final chapter.