There is an old George M. Cohan song called, "Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway". Cohan was referring to New Rochelle, which is where Steve Ross was born, one of five children. He has an older and a younger brother and two sisters, and the family has now expanded to include nieces and nephews. "They're a good lot," says Steve.
Early on, the family moved to Washington, D.C., and here Steve spent most of his growing years. He
became enraptured with the music his mother played on the piano, a little
boy lying under the piano to better absorb the songs. Of course, he studied
the piano, and after attending Georgetown University and serving in the Army, he became what he calls, "a
background piano player". He played the music he'd grown up with, Cole
Porter, Noel Coward, Gershwin, "all those standards that were collapsing
around me." Then, in the early '70's, he came to New York City.
"I'd never sung and talked to people right in front of me."
Many jobs hinged on Steve singing as well
as playing. He told the club owners that he couldn't really sing; they insisted.
So Steve began with amusing little songs and found he could put them over
well. He decided to train his voice further, and so his style was developed,
and his sets were focusing. Steve believes that this focus is an essence of
cabaret. The audience must feel the connection.
"That's my key -- there's a given moment in a great cabaret performance, when the listener can say, 'That's me, that love story is mine'." That's when you, as the performer, have made your connection with the listener, and then the listener can make his connection."
A boost to Steve Ross's career came in the '70's, when he began his run at Ted Hook's immensely popular Backstage, a piano bar and restaurant in the Broadway theater district. Steve attracted a following, and the piano bar received a steady clientele who came to hear his constantly growing repertoire of American popular songs. Steve's piano musicianship was honed by now, and performers like Liza Minnelli and Ginger Rogers have been known to get up and sing along with Steve's piano. As for his own singing, he developed the ability to communicate the most challenging Cole Porter tongue-twister lyrics, building the stories and the tension. He was just fun to watch and listen to. He still is.
His major career thrust came when Steve became the first cabaret performer after 40 years in the newly opened Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room. This put him in the vanguard of the cabaret revival in New York, and eventually other cities around the country. He performed regularly at the Oak Room for almost four years, and still returns with sell-out performances.
In addition, his career began expanding internationally.
A self-proclaimed Anglophile, Steve was happy to begin dinner cabaret at the
Ritz in London. He enjoys performing regularly at London's popular Pizza On The Park. He
has played at the Spoleto Festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and the Perth
In 1989, the BBC asked Steve to host a live cabaret series. He was also the host of a popular radio series for National Public Radio, New York Cabaret Nights, with live broadcasts from cabaret rooms in New York City and featuring noted cabaret guests. Those with tapes of these radio shows treasure them.
Says Steve about this venue in which he is so involved--
"So much of cabaret is about love. It's
the emotion we're always trying to be reminded of most of all."
photo of Steve Ross riding his bike -- updown, downtown, all around the town: courtesy of Steve Ross
© 2005 Elizabeth Ahlfors. All rights reserved worldwide.