When Sue Raney and Joe Massimino appear tonight at Orange Coast College, the singer and the pianist-bandleader will have only known each other, musically speaking, for about seven hours. Their first rehearsal for the concert takes place today at 1 p.m.
Raney admits that she's not completely at ease with the situation. "It should be fun, but there is that anticipation when you work with someone for the first time," she said.
Still, the short preparation time will probably have little or no effect on these two veteran pros. That's because both Raney and Massimino, who will lead his Big Band tonight, are highly skilled artists who have a good deal of respect for each other.
"I saw Sue at Orange Coast College a couple of years ago, and I was impressed," Massimino said over the phone from his home in Tustin. "I have a great admiration for her."
Raney has never heard Massimino play, but she's heard about him. "I've been told he's wonderful," said the singer, reached at her home in Sherman Oaks.
Both Raney and Massimino know about having to work quickly. As a teen-ager, Raney sang on the "Jack Carson Show" on CBS radio. Then, after a stint as a pop vocalist, she worked in Los Angeles TV studios as a jingle composer and singer. These occupations call for the ability to react quickly to sudden changes in programming.
For 14 years, Massimino was musical director for "The Mike Douglas Show," the syndicated TV variety program that went off the air in 1982. "Usually, someone like Ben Vereen would come in at 10 a.m., we'd select some material, I'd go and arrange it, we'd rehearse," and then they'd go on the air that afternoon, Massimo recalled.
Sometimes, he'd have to work even faster. "An act might drop out an hour before airtime, and I'd have to write an arrangement of a medley of songs for Mike to sing," he said.
Here's how Raney and Massimino will prep for tonight's affair: At 1 p.m., the two will "talk over material, run over intros and endings, and any other intricate stuff," Massimino explained.
"We just want to make sure we know what each other is doing," Raney added.
After a 3:30 p.m. run-through with Massimino's Big Band, the headliners will be ready. "We'll have it down," Massimino said confidently. "It's a long day, but I want it to be right."
Massimino, who brings along such stellar talent as guitarist Ron Eschete, bassist Luther Hughes, drummer Chuck Flores, trombonist Alex Iles and reedman Ray Pizzi, will open the show with a quartet (members to be announced), then spotlight his Big Band. Raney then steps up, singing such classics as "Bluesette" (arranged by Bill Holman) and "You Must Believe in Spring" (arranged by Peter Matz).
Asked why she stuck with standards, Raney said: "When I first started to record, I wasn't able to sing these kinds of songs. The record companies wanted me to have a hit record, so I did bubble-gum pop, country, a little rock, tunes with mass appeal. Later, when I recorded for Albert Marx at Discovery, I got (the) chance" to do classic material.
Both Massimino and Raney have busy schedules. Raney, who sings May 24 with Bill Watrous' Big Band at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks, stays active in the studios. She supplied a vocal track for actress Kathy Baker, who plays a singer in the Showtime movie "Lush Life," which will air Friday. "I helped her learn to lip-sync the part," Raney said. This fall, the singer travels to Israel to appear with Michel LeGrand's orchestra.
Massimino, besides working in his Sierra Digital recording studio in Tustin, now performs solo piano Mondays and Tuesdays at 21 Oceanfront in Newport Beach.
"I play everything from Broadway tunes to be-bop," he said. "People come up and request stuff. It's sort of like 'Stump the Piano Player.' "
Sue Raney and the Joe Massimino quartet and Big Band appear tonight at 8 in the Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Tickets, $13-$15. Information: (714) 432-5880.