Yesterday, German-born vocalist Max Raabe released a new album and launched a worldwide tour. On March 3, Raabe will perform for a sold-out crowd at the Met’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. If you couldn’t score a ticket and aren't already familiar with this talented singer—who has made it his mission to bring back the music (and the style) of the ’20s—call up his performance of jazz standard “Cheek to Cheek” on YouTube and prepare to be mesmerized. (It’s like seeing Fred Astaire in the flesh.) We spoke to Raabe about his influences and his U.S. tour.
You have such a beautiful voice. Are you classically trained, or did you study mainly jazz performance? MAX RAABE: I discovered my love for the music of the ’20s as a teenager. We had a regular radio program that played old shellac recordings, which I listened to religiously. In the ’80s I studied classical singing at the Berlin University of Arts. So my style is a mixture of what I have learned from years of listening to shellac records and classical training.
How did you begin forming your own orchestra? Was it difficult to find musicians interested in playing this genre?
MR: The music of the 1920s has always been my private amusement. I one day found some cheap arrangements and with a few fellow students [and] founded the Palast Orchester. At the time, we played just for fun and to finance our studies. After a year we got our first engagement and as time passed we became more and more successful. Many of the musicians who were with the Palast Orchester in the late ’80s/early ’90s are still with us today.
Your music sounds like an old record—in the best way. Did you do a lot of research to recreate the ’20s sound? MR: All our arrangements are original arrangements of the period. If we don't find printed music then we transcribe the music note-for-note from original recordings.
What is your absolute favorite song to sing?
MR: There are many songs I love to sing. At the moment one of my favorite songs is our new hit “Küssen kann man nicht alleine” [One Cannot Kiss Alone] and I am very anxious to see how it will be received by the American audience!
Your tour stops here in New York. How do you find New Yorkers? What do you enjoy doing when you visit us? MR: We will be in the U.S.A. from February 22 through March 11, in cities like New York, Boston, Washington D.C., L.A., Austin, and Cleveland. In New York I just love walking through the city, visiting museums, and seeking local peculiarities. The New Yorkers have a wonderful freshness about them, are easy to talk to, and always eager to help.