Adriana Savalas owns the stage through jazz and cabaret

Published on March 25th, 2021

By Jim Dail

The kids of celebrities have a very mixed track record over the years when it comes to achieving success on screen or with music. That’s not the case for singer Ariana Savalas, the daughter of legendary actor Telly Savalas who has becoming a rising star in the jazz world.

The 28-year-old singer, who will perform Saturday at Thornton Winery as part of the 2015 Champagne Jazz Concert Series, was only seven when her father passed away.

“What’s funny is that it makes me so happy to be performing and for people to know who I am because it keeps him alive for me,” she said during a recent telephone interview. “It was a different situation for me because I was only seven when he died, so I didn’t get a chance to know him and grow up the child of movie star mother or father in the same way. When I perform and do interviews it keeps him alive for me in a lot of ways.”

But she certainly wasn’t a child protégé.

“I started out in musical theater, and I was a terrible actress as a teen,” she laughed. “I was just horrible, just laughable. I think I did some auditions for some Kate Hudson movie, and if you saw it you’d fall on the floor laughing. I always wanted to be an actress.”

After the early “disasters” as she puts it, there were some acting gigs, but it was jazz and cabaret that really got her going.

“What I love about jazz and cabaret is I haven’t had to choose whether I want to be a singer or an actor,” she said. “There is such a live element and playing with my audience and having so much fun doing that. I feel I can incorporate all of that into my shows.”

She has done just that in places such as The Dave Koz Lounge in Beverly Hills, Palm Beach’s Royal Room, and even on NBC’s Breeder’s Cup show, just to name a few.

And jazz legend Dave Koz is one of her fans.

“I’ve not seen that kind of pure talent in a very long time,” he said. “Ariana’s got it all, and no matter where she’s doing her thing, it seems that no one can take their eyes off of her. She’s completely electric and such a hoot!”

And jazz wasn’t even the first choice, though it has turned out to be the right one.

“I’d like to say it was planned, but I tripped into jazz heaven,” she said. “I moved out to Los Angeles to be a singer/songwriter.”

She was introduced to Corky Hale, the wife of famed songwriter Mike Stoller, who along with Jerry Leiber wrote such classics as “All Shook Up,” “Along Came Jones,” and “Hound Dog.” It was the typical “There’s this singer I want you to see” bit.

“Corky is a great player, and she heard me sing jazz and I never dreamed I’d have a career in it,” she said. “Of course, my dad was from the Rat Pack era and my grandparents brought me up listening to all those guys, so I had that background. When Corky heard me sing, she said ‘Honey, don’t waste your time with this singer/songwriter thing. You need to be a jazz singer. You need to be in cabaret’ and that’s how it happened.”

And since then she has been performing across the country, as well as an opening act for Kenny G and receiving compliments from many of the most established stars in the business. But she’s not just about the stage show, but the studio as well.

Her first EP, “Sophisticated Lady,” was a tribute to the jazz genre.

“It was mostly originals and a couple standards, particularly Duke Ellington’s ‘Sophisticated Lady,” she said.

Now she is working on another EP.

“This one is going to be very ‘Moulin Rouge’ style,” she said. “It will be straight jazzy and very 1920s Cab Calloway inspired.”

And her tastes are wide ranging especially on stage. On stage fans might hear “Perfect Man,” one of her singles, or possible “One Man Show” and “Sophisticated Lady.”

“I like to do a combination so at least the people, if they don’t know me, will know the song,” she said. “I love playing songs that people know and love and that we can have some fun with. It’s a potpourri of stuff.”

And for the crowd, that’s a happy thing.

“It’s about the music and connecting to the audience and everyone having a good time,” she said. “When it all began, things just felt magical, and then I had to try on a lot of different outfits before I found the black outfit that fit!”


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