By DEBBIE FLESSNER
Let’s Go Correspondent
Suncoast resident Kitt Moran’s storied career in the arts began as a musical artist.
During a long career, she has recorded with well-known names such a Don Sebesky, Teo Macero, Rosemary Clooney, John Pizzarelli, Jack Sheldon, Ron Carter, Toots Thielemanns, Harry Allen, Mel Lewis, Paulo Braga and many more jazz greats. In addition, she has performed with Michel Legrand, Burt Bacharach, Merv Griffin, Vic Damone and many other performers and creators of the Great American Songbook and the Jazz Standard repertoire.
Kitt and her husband Mike, a piano player and composer, were performing with their band in New Jersey, when around 2004, it was suggested to them to visit the west coast of Florida.
“Our bass player said, ‘You have to check out this area,’” Kitt said. “We came down here and couldn’t believe the scene here — the music, the art, just everything.”
They made the move to Florida almost immediately, and right away felt at home. The couple’s bandmates from New Jersey, bass player Dominic Mancini and drummer Dane Hassan, also migrated south not long afterwards, so the Kitt Moran band continued to perform. Their musical style is primarily American popular standards, and the group quickly found an adoring audience here.
At the same time, Kitt was discovering another interest, and turned out to be quite adept at that, too.
“I’ve always been so moved by art,” she said. “My girlfriend used to paint these beautiful watercolors, so in 2007, when she asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her I wanted painting classes. I had never even painted as a kid, but I’ve always been an appreciator of art.”
She found that she didn’t really care for watercolors, and was instead drawn to oils. The subjects of Kitt’s paintings vary from figurative landscapes of New York City to impressionistic portraits of children, and she already displays and sells her work in several local galleries — Collectors Gallery & Framery in Venice, The Sea Grape in Punta Gorda and The Visual Art Center in Punta Gorda.
As if she weren’t already busy enough, Kitt has also been writing music and lyrics with a longtime friend, Janina Serden Sebesky, for two different musicals. One of them, “Chick Soup: A Musical Recipe for Friendship,” has already enjoyed a run at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center, and another, “Johnny Mercer: An Intimate Portrait,” is scheduled to soon begin.
She says that the “Chick Soup” musical is about four women who meet at a gynecologist office and become friends, and it outlines how they all relate to each other. For the Johnny Mercer play, Kitt researched the famous lyricist, songwriter and singer’s life and musical inspirations.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but for 30 years, he had an affair with Judy Garland,” she said. “That influenced every song he wrote during that time.”
Though this summer, Kitt plans to take some time off to visit her daughter in the Northeast, her band will likely still be playing around town while she’s gone. The best way to find out where, when and who will be performing on a given night is to visit her website.
As far as her painting goes, Kitt enjoys all the different subjects of her work, but has discovered that at least at Collectors Gallery & Frames, one particular subject seems to be very popular with shoppers.
“Leah (Sherman, proprietor of the shop) calls them my ‘fancy ladies,’” she said. “I used to paint these ladies all dressed up with hats drinking tea. When I changed what they were drinking to wine, all of the sudden, they really started selling.”