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Thursday, January 6, 2011

RIP: David Gurland (1967–2011)

By Adam Feldman -

A beaming fixture of New York City's cabaret scene, David Gurland, suffered a massive brain aneurysm at 2am on December 29, and officially died yesterday at 4:52pm. He was 43 years old. Sources close to the performer and his longtime partner, actor-singer Rob Maitner, confirm that although his death was reported last week, Gurland was kept on life support until yesterday to enable organ donation—a fittingly generous final gesture for a singer who shared so much of himself in his work.
For more than two decades, Gurland was a constant in the variable nightclub world; his first professional gig in New York City was at Beefsteak Charlie's back in 1988, his most recent a fund-raising concert at the Broadway Comedy Club's Main Stage in November. In between, at venues from Eighty-Eights to the Laurie Beechman Theatre, he tackled unconventional material in solo sets—including The Gurley Show, Neurotica and the DGUR in Concert series—that showed off his high-ranging voice with shifting degrees of sauciness, tenderness, sincerity, edge and campy humor. Gurland also worked often with other singers, including Maitner and Brian Farley, and since 2008 he sang with the vocal quartet Uptown Express. Both his self-titled 1999 CD and Uptown Express's 2010 CD Take You There are available on iTunes.
"David lived grandly, loved fiercely, sang beautifully and danced terribly," wrote his family in a statement released this evening. "And that is exactly how we hope the world remembers him.” The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in Gurland's name to the Ali Forney Center for GLBT homeless youth.
After the jump: fond tributes from some of the many people who knew and worked with Gurland over the years.

Rob Maitner: "My soul mate David Gurland loved with abandon. He loved me, our family and our friends with absolute passion. He also loved good press. He would have been thrilled that his death was reported, retracted and reported yet again. He was a big believer in an encore or two."
Steven Ray Watkins, musical director: "David Gurland quite simply made me happy. When he would come over for a quick rehearsal, when we ran into each other in the hood, when we ended up riding the train home together, there was not a minute that wasn't filled with a smile, a laugh, a smartass comeback. He was, for me, a joy to be around. Coupled with his stunning tenor and artistic bravery, that made him one hell of a terrific person, artist and friend."
Adam Fitzgerald, director: "It saddens my heart so much that David is no longer with us, but I cannot seem to stay sad very long when I remember him. From Santa costumes to schoolgirl outfits, his life—onstage and off—was always filled with laughter. I will miss him terribly as a performer and a dear friend, and I feel truly blessed to have known him and laughed with him."
Robbie Rozelle, record producer: "God, he was funny. I met him years ago at the Duplex, when we sat together by chance; he and I were hysterically inappropriate, and I knew he would be a friend for life. I could tell his sense of humor was brilliant when I saw him work Mame's 'Bosom Buddies' into Billy Joel's 'My Life.' And when he did a reading from Madonna's children's book during his Neurotica shows, complete with bad English accent—that was truly genius at work."
Brandon Cutrell, singer and host: "David was one of the zaniest performers I ever met. He fearlessly went for the joke and got it every time. He was a dear friend who will be profoundly missed."
Tracy Stark, musical director: "No matter what was going on in my own life, David always made me feel good. I could say anything to him. I loved being around him, with his gigantic heart, and loving, sarcastic personality. He was one of my favorite vocalists to play with, not only because of his gorgeous, tender voice but because he was always in the moment; I never knew what was going to happen on stage. I will miss this wonderful man terribly."
Julie Reyburn, singer: "Singing with David was like being shot out of a cannon: You never knew what was going to happen next, but it was always amazing. I treasure the many musical collaborations we had over the years. His passion and determination to be exactly who he was inspired us all. His loyalty and friendship were real and true, just like his God-given talent."
Kenny Bell, club manager: "David was one of the most loving, caring and supportive friends I have met through the Laurie Beechman Theatre. And he always made me smile! I will miss him dearly."
Trapper Felides, musical director: "When I first hit the New York City, David invited me to a swanky Upper East Side salon dedicated to Rodgers and Hart. He was the main act, and he imbued his songs with a thoughtfulness that is rare in any setting; I adored how he could bring a casual take to the familiar or overwrought. He was a warm and unique presence, and performing houses in every nook of the city will be lesser in his absence."
Lee Lessack, record producer: "When I started LML Music, it was to distribute my own CD; I hadn't thought much beyond that. David was one of the first artists that had a vision of how LML could grow. What I loved about David was that he didn't fit into the 'cabaret' stereotype; his recording was original and had a pop sensibility. David always marched to his own drum. He was so optimistic and upbeat, and always saw the glass as half full."
Phil Geoffrey Bond, club manager and performer: "David was—so strange to type was—the first person to respond to an email (and with great wit), the first person to say yes (and with a smile), and the hands-down funniest person to share a stage or sit in an audience with. I have such treasured memories of the ten years we spent working together. A cornerstone of our little company is gone, and our foundation is deeply shaken."
Jim Caruso, performer and host: "In an often hard-to-fathom business, David was a constant bright smile on the cabaret scene. His energy, sense of humor and beautiful way with a lyric will be missed by all of us who knew him."
Scott Coulter, singer: "I met David when at the very start of my cabaret career and we became friends and mutual supporters from the beginning. I was a Nashville boy who had just moved to the big city, and David was a New York boy who did a lot of country music, which I was so thrilled to hear in a cabaret room. I will never forget his live performances of Kathy Mattea's 'Love Travels'—it was like he was flying. And that smile! He was joyful and fearless on stage and in life, and was loved by all who knew him. Love travels indeed."


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