BWW Reviews: Terese Genecco's New 'Live from the Iridium NYC' CD - A Sensational Homage to the Swingin' Nightclub Greats
It may be 2012, but listening to Terese Genecco's latest standout CD, "Live from the Iridium NYC," will transport you back to the 1950s and '60s, a time when the great nightclub singers would make an audience swing and sway while delivering some of the greatest pop, jazz, blues, and Broadway standards their way. Genecco, with sensational support from her 8-piece "Little Big Band," is a ball of entertaining energy and charisma who conjures up memories of Frank, Dean, Sammy, and the classic lounge singers from Mel Torme to Marilyn Maye, yet Terese makes musical magic with a powerful and distinctive vocal style all her own.
Genecco recently celebrated the third anniversary of her monthly two-sets-per-show gig (reviewed here) at the Iridium Jazz Club on Broadway (at 51st Street), and this CD features 12 of the 70 numbers Terese and her A-list band members have wailed away on for over 70 shows. Genecco “Live” gets off to a rocking start with “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” from the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie, and celebrates Genecco’s love and infinity for Elvis, even if the song was written for a faux Presley. She follows with an up-tempo version of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” (Sinatra did it as a ballad), and then goes into “Rat Pack” mode with her take on “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” which Dean Martin delivered in the film Ocean’s 11.
One mark of a great singer/entertainer is the ability to turn an original song into a hit and Genecco clearly accomplishes that on Bill Zeffiro’s homage to a swinging Sinatra, “Universal Truth (Schmuck in Love).” On “You’re My Thrill,” she takes a song that Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, and even Diana Krall sung as ballads and swings it for all it’s worth. And while Genecco sings the phrase “Fa Subito” on “It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)” from The Pink Panther, her vocal and trombonist Mark Miller’s arrangement is more like “Fab-U-Lito.” But the highlight of the entire CD has to be Daniel Fabricant’s arrangement of Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen’s “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home,” a Sammy Davis, Jr. classic that would have had The Candy Man genuflecting at Genecco’s tour de force rendition. In fact, most of the arrangements here—including Genecco’s on “The Thrill is Gone”— are top notch. The lone exception is the ambitious, but uneven arrangement of “Frankie & Johnny,” a classic narrative number about the guy who done her wrong, but where the overpowering band sound done the lyrical story line wrong.
This terrific disc takes full advantage of the new sound and recording equipment at the Iridium (word is there will be Iridium-produced “Live” CDs coming down the road) and Paul Special’s mixing job is, well, special. Genecco’s 8-piece “Little Big Band” is an all-star team of New York cabaret and musical theater musicians, including Barry Levitt (piano), Tom Hubbard (bass), Ray Marchica (drums), Rex Benincasa (percussion), Sean Harkness (guitar), Cliff Lyons (tenor sax), Rich Armstrong (trumpet), and Doug Beavers (trombone), and this production makes them sound like the Count Basie Orchestra. By the time you get to the disc’s finale, the Mark Miller arrangement of Mel Torme’s jaunty and jazzy “Swingin’ On the Moon,” you’ll be bouncin’ off the walls—but in a good way. In fact, the only downside to this CD is that there isn’t enough of it.