He has been categorized as new age, but composer-pianist Jim Brickman likes to think of himself as good for any age. He is prepared to show listeners why in two different Bay Area Cabaret shows at the Venetian Room this weekend.
“Categories of music only exist because of things like the Grammy awards, Billboard Magazine, and where to put it in a retail store,” says the twice-Grammy-nominated performer. “One of the things that I love about what Target does for me is they don’t try to label it as something, they just call it the Jim Brickman section.”
That section has helped Brickman achieve gold and platinum status on six albums. “After duets with everybody from Lady Antebellum to Johnny Mathis, I’m just not exactly sure that new age would be accurate,” he says, laughing.
Duets are in the works for Sunday, too, when Brickman performs with frequent Bay Area visitor David Burnham. Brickman has been delighted to learn laughter is a trait he shares with the Broadway singer-actor, who will be his guest at both shows. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together. We have a similar patter and sense of humor,” he says.
Labels and categories notwithstanding, the intimacy of this thing called cabaret appeals to Brickman, who thinks of himself primarily as a songwriter. “As people start to know your music, you yearn for the ability to have more of an unplugged experience, per se. To have a more intimate conversation with the audience about why the songs are what they are.”
It’s a feeling that stems from being in what he calls “a more at-ease” phase of his career.
“It comes more out of desire and less out of other people’s suggestions or a label thing. There’s not as much ‘You know what you should do?’ in my life as there used to be from other people. I drive most of the choices about what happens next.”
His most recent “next” was recording “The Magic of Christmas,” which joins more than a half-dozen other holiday-themed Brickman titles. “My music and the melodies and emotional nostalgia of Christmas go hand in hand,” says Brickman of his frequent work in the genre. He calls it “an opportunity for me to play stylistically what I do as a composer.”
It’s also a form of spiritual expression and, perhaps, gratitude. “I don’t ever think, ‘I’m going to go to work today and I’m going to write a song.’ It just kind of comes out. I feel like that’s a gift and I don’t attribute it to any one deity, but I attribute it to spirituality.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Bay Area Cabaret
Where: Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F.
When: 5 and 8 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $43 to $48