|Country Of origin:||United States of America|
A singer/songwriter who cites Elvis Costello and XTC (whom he's produced) among his biggest inspirations, David Yazbek became better known as a Tony-winning musical theater composer/lyricist. He is also recognized for his work in film and television, which includes the theme song for Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego? in the early '90s. He released his first solo album, Laughing Man, under the mononym Yazbek in 1996 before partnering with writer Terrence McNally on The Full Monty, which marked his Broadway debut in 2000. He continued to release solo material into the 2000s in between theater projects such as 2005's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and 2017's The Band's Visit, both Tony Award winners for Best Musical. The latter won Yazbek the Tony for Best Original Score.
Born and raised in New York City, David Yazbek's first instrument was the cello, which he began playing in elementary school. He took up piano as a teenager. Yazbek went on to earn a degree from Brown University, graduating in 1982. He won an Emmy as part of the writing team for The Late Show with David Letterman in 1986 before deciding to focus on music professionally. At first finding success as a commercial jingle writer, he was part owner of the Manhattan Recording Company studio alongside founder Billy Straus from 1987 to 1989.
Yazbek partnered with a friend from high school, Sean Altman of Rockapella, to write the memorable theme song to the PBS educational series Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which premiered in 1991. Over the next several years, he composed for film shorts and began to find regular work as a music producer, collaborating with such artists as the Persuasions, Tito Puente, and songwriting influence Andy Partridge's band XTC. In turn, Partridge co-produced and played guitar on Yazbek's solo debut album, Laughing Man. It was released by What Are Records? in 1996, credited to simply Yazbek. Another '80s college rock-influenced Yazbek LP, Tock, followed on the same label in 1998. It included the song "You Are Here," which was penned by Partridge, who also performed on the album.
In the meantime, celebrated playwright Terrence McNally was preparing a book for the musical The Full Monty, an adaptation of the 1997 British film of the same name. Originally, composer/lyricist Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza) was approached to provide the show's music, but when he had to turn it down, he recommended his former bandmate, Yazbek, for the job. The show opened on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in October of 2000 and became a hit, premiering on the West End two years later. Yazbek's score was nominated for a Tony Award, and he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music in 2001. Also in 2001, Yazbek released his third solo album, Damascus. A year later, he contributed additional lyrics for the A.R. Rahman musical Bombay Dreams.
His next project was an adaptation of the 1988 comedy film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. With music and lyrics by Yazbek and a book by Jeffrey Lane, it arrived on Broadway in 2005. Later that year, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels received 11 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. What Are Records? also released the Yazbek song collection Tape Recorder (Collected Works) in 2005.
In 2007, the songwriter returned with another solo album, Evil Monkey Man, this time on Ghostlight Records and under his full name. The same year, Yazbek provided two songs for the film comedy The Ten ("Written in Stone" and "Who Am I and Where Do I Go from Here?"). Back on the stage, the musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown reunited the composer with Lane. Based on the 1988 Pedro Almodóvar film, the show opened on Broadway in October 2010 and went on to earn Tony Award nominations for featured actresses Patti LuPone and Laura Benanti, as well as for Yazbek's score.
Another musical adaptation of a film, this time with its book by Itamar Moses, Yazbek's The Band's Visit premiered off-Broadway in late 2016, then opened at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre in November 2017. About an Egyptian ceremonial band stranded for a day in a remote, one-café Israeli town on their way to a gig, the musical addressed cultural differences and prejudices, as well as a lack thereof. Its score incorporated Egyptian folk, Arab classical music, klezmer, improvisational jazz, and more into songs and instrumental performances (Yazbek himself is of Jewish-Italian and Arab-Lebanese descent). The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2018, and won ten, including Best Musical and Yazbek's first for Best Original Score. He also won the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics for the show. ~ Marcy Donelson~ Rovi