||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
May 9, 1961 |
San Diego, California, U.S.
|Origin||Riverdale, Bronx, New York City|
|Genres||A Cappella, power pop, comedy rock|
|Labels||Chow Fun Records
What I Like About Jew
Sean Altman (born May 9, 1961) is an American musician and songwriter. He is a founder and former lead singer of the singing group Rockapella and a pioneer of the modern a cappella movement. He was a member of Rockapella from its inception in 1986 until he left the group in 1997 to launch a solo career.
As a founding member of Rockapella, Altman became known for his role on the hit PBS Kids game show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, on which his band served as the house vocal band and comedy troupe. Altman and his childhood friend, David Yazbek, co-wrote the show's classic theme song, which is recognized as one of the best known television themes in history. Rockapella released eleven albums in Japan and North America during Altman's eleven-year tenure.
As a solo artist, Altman has released three solo albums on the independent Chow Fun Records: seanDEMOnium (1997), alt.mania (2002), and Losing Streak (2005). In 2008, Altman's solo comedy song act Jewmongous released the debut album Taller Than Jesus (Chow Fun Records), about which The Washington Post wrote "Witty and outrageously lampooning...full of catchy melodies, clever arrangements and lyrics that yield satiric gems." His a cappella group The GrooveBarbers has released two albums: Glory (2005) and Guts (2010), and his defunct comedy song duo What I Like About Jew released Unorthodox (2005) before its breakup in 2006. In 2009, Altman wrote and recorded (along with former Rockapella members Barry Carl and Elliot Kerman) two songs for the popular Schoolhouse Rock! series, composed and performed on two TV commercials for Wendy's and composed and recorded the theme song for the PBS show Science Mission 101.
Altman grew up in the Bronx, New York, in Riverdale. His musical talent was recognized early on, as he starred in many school musicals and claims to have charmed female classmates with "hallway serenades." At age seventeen, Altman turned pro, performing on the NYC nightclub circuit with David Yazbek as Moon Pudding, a Simon and Garfunkel-styled teen duo. At Brown University, Altman majored in political science, but focused primarily on singing college a cappella in The High Jinks and fronting Blind Dates, his rock group that released two national college radio hits. Altman continued with Blind Dates after graduating from Brown in 1984, moving from Providence to NYC in search of a record deal. The group dissolved in 1987, just as Rockapella's career began.
After graduating from Brown together, Altman and fellow High Jinks member Elliott Kerman joined classmates Steve Keyes and David Stix to form a new a cappella group called Rockapella. Rockapella began its career humbly, performing on street corners in NYC while Altman still focused primarily on his Blind Dates work. The group's repertoire consisted of a mix of barbershop arrangements and a cappella renditions of classic doo wop pieces. As the group grew in experience and Altman honed his vocal arranging skills, they began to focus less on oldies and barbershop, and more on contemporary rock music. A dinner party performance for television personality Kathie Lee Gifford led to the group's 1988 appearance on the ABC-TV show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Rockapella's performance of Altman's signature arrangement of the calypso novelty standard Zombie Jamboree caught the eye of producer Gerard Brown, who invited Rockapella to perform on the PBS "Great Performances" TV special Spike Lee & Company - Do it A Capella, which featured established a cappella acts Take 6, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Rockapella's idols The Persuasions. Elektra Records released Rockapella's live recording of "Zombie Jamboree" as a single, and the group's recording career was launched.
Producers of the future PBS Kids game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? took note of Rockapella's talents and signed the group to appear as the show's comic troupe and vocal house band. The half-hour game show aired daily for five years, catapulting Rockapella into mid-level television celebrity and making the Rockapella-performed theme song (penned by Sean and his childhood friend David Yazbek) into one of the best known television themes in history. Altman is particularly remembered for his trademark blond braids, which were ceremoniously sheared in the last episode of the fifth and final season by the show's host Greg Lee. The soundtrack to the show features five of Altman's original songs, including the aforementioned theme song and a duet with The Persuasions on "My Home". A sequel album co-produced by Altman, with collaborators Billy Straus and David Yazbek, was entitled Carmen Sandiego: Out Of This World and contained four Altman compositions as well as contributions from the rock bands XTC and They Might Be Giants. While Carmen Sandiego ran in the United States and Canada, Rockapella released seven albums in Japan, on which appeared a total of 14 original songs written by Altman both solo and in collaboration with others. The group also toured Japan briefly during this time.
After Carmen Sandiego finished after five seasons and Rockapella had put out two independent albums in the United States, Altman left the group in April 1997 to better focus on his solo career. He promptly released his debut CD seanDEMOnium, about which the Philadelphia Daily News wrote: "Imagine Dion meeting Marshall Crenshaw at the Beatles' house, with the Kinks, Beach Boys, Four Seasons and Persuasions all dropping by for a song swap. The words have a cynical edge, but what really grabs you is the old-fashioned sweetness and punch of his neo-doowop vocals playing off incredibly hook-happy tunes." After releasing seanDEMOnium, Altman assembled a backup band, played NYC rock clubs for two years, garnering accolades for his live shows. The Village Voice called him "an absurdly talented performer... a power-pop mensch and an aspiring teen cult leader." He released alt.mania, his second CD of original music in 2002, about which Hits Magazine wrote: "This record rocks....Rockapella mastermind, internet entrepreneur and divorcé Altman tells barbed, musically diverse tales of romantic misadventures....A dark, funny, resilient, postmodern concept album about love and loss."
Altman is the only three-time winner of the Contemporary A Cappella Society’s “Original Song of the Year” award, and has also been a "Best Male Vocalist" award recipient. He currently records and performs a cappella with some other ex-Rockapella members in The GrooveBarbers (featured as The Astelins in TV commercials for Astelin nasal spray), bittersweet pop songs as a solo artist, and comedy songs in Jewmongous. He has vocal-arranged and produced a cappella albums for the groups Minimum Wage and Kol Zimra. Altman was named “Best Male Artist” in the 2005 International Acoustic Music Awards and was a 2005 Kerrville New Folk finalist. He is a member of The Loser's Lounge tribute series in New York and serenades hospital patients as a volunteer with Musicians On Call. In June 2011, Altman released the song "MOT: Members of The Tribe" with Jordan B. Gorfinkel. The song highlights the contrasts in different observance levels within Judaism. It promotes tolerance and respect.
In 2003, Altman married operatic soprano Inna Dukach. They live in Harlem, New York City. In late November 2008, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Ruby Dukach-Altman.
|March 2002||Alt.mania||Sean Altman|
|June 2005||Losing Streak||Sean Altman|
|2006||Unorthodox||Sean Altman (What I Like About Jew)|
|2008||Taller Than Jesus||Sean Altman (JEWMONGOUS)|
|2007||Dusty Valentine||(Sean) Altman and (Mike) Mendyke|
|March 2010||Guts||The GrooveBarbers|
Guest Appearances/Various Releases
|2000||The Brian Woodbury Songbook - Brian Woodbury||"Unspoken Love"|
|2002||Karaoke Bar Brawl - The Ex-boyfriends||"Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'"|
|2007||Jerry Lawson Talk of the Town - Jerry Lawson Talk of the Town||"The River of Dreams"
"Islands in the Stream"
|2009||Schoolhouse Rock!: Earth||"You Oughta Be Savin' Water"
"Save the Ocean"
- Sean Altman official website
- The GrooveBarbers
- Sean Altman at the Internet Movie Database