We are missing you: a genius and a gentleman.
I met Phil in New York. My manager gave me this amazing opportunity to meet a living legend. Life was sending a gift to me.
Our first contact was on the phone. His voice was that of such a peaceful and charming man. You could not figure out his age. All the passion was present in him.
He started with compliments, I was literally fainting over the phone as I heard his words. Phil Ramone liked my voice... I stayed calm when he offered to create an album together. "Write a story for your album as you would for a movie. What do you want to say? What do you want to convey in this album?"
I hang up and wrote it, my soul was screaming inside me.
We then met early for coffee in his beloved city. We ended up spending the whole day together.
I was mesmerised by all the stories of all the albums and shows he had worked on and produced. All these artists... I was drinking in all the details of his productions like Fame on Broadway, the Simon and Garfunkel show in Central Park, Luciano Pavarotti, the last album of Frank Sinatra, the iconic albums of Billy Joel... personalities... successes... I travelled the music planet with him with awe and passion and love for his artists and his family that he so loved and cared for, it was touching...
Then we started to design our album together.
He had a very clear idea of the project he had in mind for me. As always when I meet exceptional beings I let them express their view as I know it is a gift to me and a vision that I have not opened myself to yet. So I loved his idea: doing an album of covers of songs from the 40s & 50s... I love this period. I admire those strong women of the time - Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Edith Piaf... Well I was happy... but was I ready for that? Certainly I was nervous!
Later in the year we organized the recording of those songs in his New York studios, his fief on Broadway. He brought amazing musicians, some of them had played with those jazz legends before. It was really impressive for me, this little French singer...
I was trying to stay "not impressed" and focused on my simplicity. But he happened to be the most soft and lovable producer. Each time he felt I needed a break he would feed me amazing stories. All the musicians were here to do their best. He pampered them too. We had his acolyte Frank, a producer who was doing engineering for Phil, with who he would always fight to relax.
These moments of recreating those old songs with his signature were totally magical. The days were passing like in a dream. Phil would arrive - always the first one in the studio, always driving every day from his home in Connecticut, and always the last to leave at 10pm. This man was living his passion. He did not care about his age, his tiredness, the drive home after a 10 hours session... and he was paying attention to his nutrition and his sober look.
Phil had a lot of class. He was caring and full of attention to people he was working with.
There was a striking thing about working with him. Listening to his voice was almost hypnotic. He was so soft-spoken and gentle no matter what was happening with the music or anything else...
He knew everything about all the plays on Broadway because that is where he was born artistically. He always talked to me about the show we were going to set up together with this album because I am also a dancer and because that is what he really knows about too: creating shows.
I will always dream about this show we were meant to do together.
I hope life will manifest it and I am sure he will overview it from where he is.
Meanwhile I am releasing my album with you Phil and I am proud of it, about having worked with you Phil.
Karen Ruimy is co-founder of GREAT initiative http://www.thegreatinitiative.com Her new album Come With Me is out on May 28 and available for download from iTunes http://bit.ly/145noRw. Karen will be appearing at Mind Body Spirit at Earls Court 24-27 May. www.karenruimy.com