By Laura Latzko
Joe Bourne has performed music around the world, including a German cruise ship. These days, he lives in Oro Valley and brings his variety of tunes to listeners around Arizona.
Bourne and pianist Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky will perform at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa on Friday, February 3, as part of Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance’s Live Music Concerts.
Bourne covers songs from artists ranging from B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Chris Stapleton, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Josh Turner, Ray Charles and Smokey Robinson.
During his upcoming show at the Westward Look, he plans to offer jazz, soul, blues, country and R&B tunes.
“There will be a broad range of repertoire on that evening, something for everyone,” Bourne says. “You might hear ‘My Girl’ one moment and ‘Country Roads’ the next moment. I mix it up in a way that works — and people like that.”
Bourne offers his music in different configurations and genres, depending on the setting. This includes a 10-piece Motown group, a Nat King Cole tribute with a trio and an 18-piece big band.
His itinerary includes the Nat King Cole tribute at the Hotel Congress’ Century Room on Wednesday, March 1, and a solo performance on Sunday, March 5, at the Gaslight Music Hall.
Bourne’s most recent release is 2017’s “Upbeat and Sweet,” for which he rearranged rock music from the ’60s through ’80s into jazz tunes. It features Grammy-winning drummer Lewis Nash and was produced, arranged and recorded by bassist Mike Levy.
“I try to bring my own style to it,” Bourne says.
“People want to hear the song, but I try to bring a little of Joe Bourne into the presentation of the song. I try not to copy the way that Frank Sinatra sang the song. You can’t … because of the sound of my voice. It is my own. As far as Nat King Cole goes, without trying to copy him, I have a natural sound in my voice that people will say, ‘You sound like Nat King Cole.’”
Throughout his career, he has witnessed the ebb and flow of the music industry.
“A song like ‘My Way,’ I wore that out back when it came out,” Bourne says.
“After a while, you leave it alone. People don’t want to hear it anymore. When I go out now, that’s the most-requested song. I find myself doing songs that I started doing when I started in ’68. Songs that I did back then are being requested today. Songs that I put away, I’m pulling back out again.”
Bourne says these songs are nostalgic for listeners and himself.
“People enjoy hearing them, and it takes them back,” Bourne says.
Although he tends to do covers, Bourne does perform original tunes that were successful overseas.
“I might slip it in here, even though people don’t know it, but I know they will react strongly to it,” Bourne says.
Music has been a part of the singer’s life since he was a child.
Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bourne was exposed to classical and religious music when he was a child. He learned to play piano, clarinet and acoustic and steel guitars, but he was really drawn to singing. He joined a barbershop quartet in grammar school and sang with a doo-wop group in high school.
He was also part of youth choirs and street corner singing groups during his adolescence. With these groups, he developed a love for and knowledge of American standards, jazz and R&B music of his day.
He has been influenced by artists such as Sinatra, Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke and Cole.
He released his debut LP, “Let It Be Me,” in 1968. His music has taken him in different directions, including jingles for Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola.
He moved to Europe in 1975, where he performed for the American and Dutch militaries.
In Europe, he was a supporting act for the Pointer Sisters, Natalie Cole, Nina Simone, the Stylistics and Dionne Warwick. In Germany, he did a Christmas TV special with Ray Charles.
Before moving to Oro Valley in 2000, he lived in the Netherlands for 25 years.
Bourne says making CDs for ballroom and Latin dancing while living in the Netherlands helped him develop a broad repertoire.
“I would do that in themes,” Bourne says.
“I would make a theme of Burt Bacharach music. On that CD, it would have the 10 dances, cha-cha, rumba, samba, tap, the tango, slow waltz, jazz and so forth. And then, I would do a Stevie Wonder theme. … On one of the records, I ended up doing something where ‘Edelweiss’ came up.”
These days, Bourne performs at music festivals, galas, corporate events, resort and country club events, church gatherings, ballroom dance nights, home concerts and parties, charity benefits, Christmas shows and air museum events.
He has served as the vice president for the Tucson Jazz Society board and been on the entertainment committee for the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council.
Bourne also gives back through the Oro Valley Optimist Club, an organization that supports youth groups in the community.
In addition to music, Bourne is also a visual artist. He took his first painting class while working on a German cruise ship in the mid-’90s.
He has dabbled in watercolors, acrylics, mixed media, metalwork and sculpture. These days, he is focusing more on encaustics, which involves working with beeswax.
His paintings are featured in galleries and gift shops in Phoenix and Tucson.
Along with paintings, he makes coasters, cutting boards, night lights, silk scarves, throw pillows and greeting cards featuring his artwork.
Sometimes, he incorporates stones and copper from the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. His friends and family also give him items to use in his art.
“I have a drawer full of stuff that I go to when I’m working on a piece, to see if something fits with that artwork,” Bourne says.
For his artwork, Bourne draws inspiration from his travels as a musician and from his surroundings.
“A lot of it is the Southwest right now. I do a lot of botanicals and try to create 3D versions of them with the wax. I do yuccas, ocotillos, century plants, various cacti that are very colorful and very textured,” Bourne says.
Joe Bourne and Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky
WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3
WHERE: Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, 245 N. Ina Road, Tucson
COST: Free admission with table reservation; limited outdoor seating available
INFO: 520-297-1151 ex. 474, opentable.com, joebourne.com
Joe Bourne and Trio: Tribute to Nat King Cole
WHEN: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 1
WHERE: Century Room at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, Tucson
INFO: 520-622-8848, hotelcongress.com, joebourne.com
Joe Bourne: Solo Music of Johnny Mathis and Other Greats
WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday, March 5
WHERE: Gaslight Music Hall, 13005 N. Oracle Road, Suite 165 Tucson
COST: $27 for adults, $15 for children 2 to 12 and $25 for seniors, students and military
INFO: 520-529-1000, gaslightmusichall.com, joebourne.com