With more three decades of film and television work under her belt, Molly Ringwald is readily identifiable as an actress. But what most people don’t know is that she was singing and recording jazz music even before she was nominated for a Golden Globe at age 13.
Ringwald, who released her debut album “Except ... Sometimes” through Concord Records in April 2013, will share her lifelong passion for jazz with a Johnston County audience on Sept. 19. “An Evening with Molly Ringwald” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium at Johnston Community College, 245 College Road, Smithfield. The performance is part of JCC’s 2014-15 concert series.
The actress, who’s also an author, was born with the jazz gene. Her father, Bob, is a jazz pianist, and Ringwald started performing with his band when she was just 3 years old. Growing up with siblings, she loved playing music with her dad because it was “their” time. She recorded an album of jazz songs with her father’s band when she was 6 years old.
“I love all different kinds of music, but I feel like I really love jazz, because I grew up with it and it’s very familiar to me,” Ringwald said. “I like the sound of it, I find it very comforting.
“I’m the kind of person who will be inclined to stay in a restaurant that plays jazz.”
It wasn’t until she met jazz pianist and actor Peter Smith that she started to conceptualize an album. They met while acting in an Off Broadway production of “Modern Orthodox,” and at the wrap party, they discovered they were both musicians. In 2008, while both were living in Los Angeles, they started playing music together and gradually began work on an album.
“I didn’t really intend to do an album; I was just going to start playing with these musicians,” Ringwald said. “We decided to do the album because I really liked what we were doing. It happened very organically.”
The album is a nod to the Great American Songbook, with nine classic songs and a jazz cover of “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. That song opens and closes the 1985 film “The Breakfast Club,” which starred Ringwald.
She recorded “Except ... Sometimes” with a four-piece band, giving it a more intimate, subdued feel than a more traditional, big band-style jazz record. Picking the right songs to put on the album was hard, Ringwald said, because the band knew and had practiced so many. She ultimately picked the ones she thought sounded best, with a special emphasis on choosing some lesser known pieces from the Great American Songbook.
“I tried to pick songs that were more obscure, that are not usually heard as much as ‘My Funny Valentine,’ ‘Stormy Weather,’ what have you,” Ringwald said.
She and her band, which includes Smith on piano, Clayton Cameron on drums, Allen Mezquida on alto saxophone and Trevor Ware on bass, have been touring since last year, taking just last summer off. They are performing tonight (Wednesday) in Kenan Auditorium at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington .
Ringwald and the band are thinking about a second album, which she said might be a live one. It’s all very up in the air now, though. After all, she does have two other careers and three kids to tend to.
Tickets for the JCC show are $25 for adults, $22.50 for seniors, students and military and $27.50 at the door. For tickets, call the college’s box office at 919-209-2099 or visit jccperformingarts.com.