Fans of classic cabaret, aficionados of the Great American Songbook and jazz devotees will converge on Temple’s Hilton Garden Inn on Saturday, as singer Calabria Foti returns to headline the fourth annual Jazz Party.
The Los Angeles-based Foti, whose vocal stylings earned accolades from musical legend Johnny Mathis, has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee. She’s also a classically trained violinist — that’s her solo violin on the theme to PBS’s “Great Performances.”
Foti started her musical odyssey as a child, first on the guitar, then bass. Both of her parents were professional musicians. “My mom plays the piano and my father is a trombonist,” she said. “I eventually started playing gigs with them — it was just an incredible way to grow up.”
She divides her energies between performing as a singer, composing songs, hiring out as a vocal arranger and working as a session musician and singer in L.A. recording studios.
Foti’s educational activities include master classes and workshops for string players and vocalists at universities and music camps across North America. Central Texas audiences first saw her as a featured artist at 2013’s Temple College Jazz Festival.
Saturday’s jazz party is a production of the Central Texas Jazz Society, a nonprofit organization that raises money to present entertainment experiences and free private jazz lessons to middle and high school students. Choosing a ringer for this year’s jazz party was an easy choice, according to Larry Simonette, president of the jazz society.
“Calabria performed here last year,” he said. “She was the first choice for our jazz party.”
For partygoers, the evening’s Cafe Carlyle-like atmosphere includes the Hilton’s Italian buffet, and the group of local musicians accompanying Foti will be led by pianist Ben Irom.
“I love singing the songs of the Great American Songbook,” Foti said, and “the audience loves it.”
Her musical priorities are clear: “I always say the songs are the star of the show.”