By Bobbie Katz
If there is one thing that the local population and those visiting Las Vegas have gleaned over the past few years, it is that there is no place like Holmes' for the holidays.
That’s because they have experienced the annual family holiday show presented by super entertainer Clint Holmes in the Cabaret Jazz room at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. This year, from December 3rd through December 6th, Holmes will once again give his spirited performance incorporating holiday classic songs along with some new selections. Joining in the fun will be his wife, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, his granddaughter Asia, 12, and his longtime dear friend and former musical director, singer/pianist, Bill Fayne. In addition, as always in his holiday show, there will be a special surprise guest. It’s a complete package of wonderful entertainment wrapped up in an intimate and warm holiday setting.
“We do a lot of the holiday classics but always put in four or five new things,” explains Holmes, who performs a new show in Cabaret Jazz the first weekend of every month. “For example, I’ll sing ‘Hallelujah’ and a song called ‘William the Angel.’ I’m the only one who sings the latter – it was written by Rob Mathes, who is the musical director for the Grammys. He handed me the song in 1998 and I’ve been doing it every Christmas since then. I’ll also be doing songs like ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ ‘O Holy Night,’ and ‘The Christmas Song’ (‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’).”
All that aside, the singer is keeping the Holmes fire burning in other ways. He will be performing in Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center on New Year’s Eve with four renowned Broadway stars– Norm Lewis, Catathia Jenkins, Patina Miller, and Erich Bergen (Miller and Bergen are also in the TV show Madame Secretary). Holmes is also nearing completion of a new CD he is recording that he says will be released in February or March in what he calls “a big deal” at the Smith Center and includes some original songs as well as duets with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ledisi, Jane Monheit, and, in all probability, Patty Austin.
“This CD is on the jazzier side,” Holmes notes. “I hope to play some jazz festivals this summer, I’m already booked to do a jazz cruise in 2017. I also hope to open the world of jazz clubs, which are big in Japan and Europe. I’m in conversations with Birdland in New York to do a CD release there, too.”
But the train doesn’t stop there. Holmes is also revising his autobiographical musical play,” The Train Stops Here” (originally called “Comfortable Shoes”), into a one-man show that he ultimately wants to take to Broadway. In addition, he is already working on next year’s shows for the Smith Center as well as writing a song for the Composer’s Showcase held one Wednesday every month at that venue.
So here’s the question: how does he do it all?
“My wife says that I have a way of compartmentalizing,” Holmes laughs. “I go from place to place so I have to prioritize and organize my day. I still play tennis three times a week. But I want to be Tony Bennett, who is 89 and still singing. I want to sing for another 30 years so I want to expand my audience. I don’t just want to rely on Las Vegas. I want to work New York, the Far East, Europe, and Las Vegas, which is my home. I need to keep going as an artist and expand my horizons. There’s nothing I like better than writing and singing new songs. I think that the Composer’s Showcase at the Smith Center is the best thing that’s happened to this city.
”Since 1996, when I first started writing “Comfortable Shoes,” I’ve written about 100 songs,” he adds. “In this case, it’s all about the narrative of the play and how to move the story along. Of course, every song I write I think is the best song I’ve ever written. Then two weeks later, I change my mind. It’s what we call in the industry ‘killing your babies.’”
As for how he keeps his fabulous voice in shape, Holmes expresses that he has been lucky genetically – his mother was a British opera singer and his father was an African-American jazz singer. Moreover, he says that he has learned technique from great teachers, starting with his mother, and he still takes vocal lessons.
“I go by the quote, ‘Roger Federer has a coach,’” he maintains. “And Roger Federer is the best tennis player in the world. We all develop bad habits that we can’t see ourselves. Larry Moss, who co-wrote “The Train Stops Here” with me, is my acting coach and I have a couple of vocal coaches. But my mom and dad encouraged music with my sister Gayle and I. That was the gift they gave us. My mom taught me that there is a technical part to singing – you have to know how to sing and how to protect you voice and how to warm up without expending vocal energy. You have to have flawless technique if you want vocal longevity. The voice is an instrument – if you break it, you’re done.
“My dad took me to the jazz clubs and jazz became my favorite kind of music,” he continues. “There’s a lot of improvisation and creativity in jazz as well as a lot more interpretation – it’s a stylistic thing. I love that. In order to be viable in today’s market, I have to be who I am. I have to respect my creativity and do what I do well. I think that what’s missing in Las Vegas today is the individual entertainer – the personal touch. A lot of young artists haven’t had the opportunity to learn that. We worked little clubs and learned how to entertain people. Today it’s all about production. ”
Holmes reveals that he is far more grown up today as an individual and that has contributed to his extremely happy marriage to entertainer Kelly Clinton, who is being honored as Entertainer of the Year at the 12th Annual ATHENA International Leadership Awards on December 4th at Sunset Station. The couple bounces everything off of each other and supports each other and the things that make their marriage work are mutual respect, humor, mutual interests, ,really listening to each other, communication, and last but not least, separate bathrooms (according to Kelly).
“Insofar as humor goes, we even put in our wedding vows that we promised to laugh at each other’s jokes no matter how many times we’ve heard them,” Holmes cajoles. ”But the truth is that cancer opened my eyes to my own vulnerability and values and how I wanted to live my life. Kelly and I are both in a business that fosters frustration. We both understand show business. It took my growing up and finding someone to communicate with the way we do for our relationship to be so storing.”
Holiday time or any other time of the year, Holmes is where the heart is.
This article appears courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.