Terese Genecco Rocks the Iridium at 3rd Anniversary Show and CD Launch Party
During the 1966-67 television season, there was a short-lived yet fascinating science-fiction show called The Time Tunnel, in which two scientists (one of them played by singer James Darren) are hurtled through various periods in history because the home office hasn’t figured out a way for their newly-developed time machine to bring them back. Descending the stairs at Iridium on Broadway (at 51st Street) when Terese Genecco is performing her monthly two-set gigs is like walking through a time tunnel to those magical times between the 1930s-early 1960s, when New York City nightclubs boasted the bestest entertainers and the swinginest live music in the world. Only once you’re sucked into Genecco’s retro mini-concerts, you don’t want the time machine to bring you back.
Except for the inside cabaret crowd and adventurous tourists, Genecco’s shows with her “Little Big Band” are probably the biggest little secret in New York. At next-door neighbor Winter Garden Theatre, Cats may have played 6,138 performances and Mamma Mia close to 4,400, but Genecco’s show is considered the longest-running nightclub act on Broadway. Last Tuesday night, the diminutive dynamo celebrated her third year at Iridium—and at two sets per show that’s 70 shows—with the release of her “Live from the Iridium NYC” CD (See review here). And “celebration” is the operative word. In front of a packed room for the 8pm show and a smaller but rowdy crowd for the 10pm, Genecco and her 8-piece band were in top form, swinging and swaying through 29 numbers (including six from special guests, Robert Hicks and Shaynee Rainbolt) and Terese repeated just three of her songs in the second set. Over her three years at the Iridium, Genecco has performed 70 different songs, basically one different chart per show. It's no surprise that the Terese tornado is a 2012 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs) nominee for both Major Artist (Female or Duo) and Show of the Year.
From the moment the spiky-haired brunette hits the stage in her gender-bending black suit over a powder blue shirt, she seems to transform into a larger-than-life entertainer, especially when rollicking through a Latin swing number like “It Had Better Be Tonight” (“Meglio Stasera”) from the film The Pink Panther. Since Genecco is also a drummer and pianist, she brings an instinctive, pulsating sense of rhythm to her singing. She’s that rare club crooner who possesses the ability to deliver touches of swing, jazz, blues, and pop all in one song or throughout an entire set.
Genecco’s energy and obvious love for the material is infectious when she wraps her strong, clear alto/mezzo soprano around songs that were transformed into standards by her main influences—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elvis, Mel Torme, the arranger Russell Garcia (who Genecco performed with and who recently died at 95), and especially her hero Marilyn Maye. Geneco and her team of arrangers are appropriately reverential with these classics, but Terese still manages to leave her distinctive vocal imprint. And her stage persona is so engaging, sweetly charismatic, and sometimes unintentionally hilarious (“Does this band make my ass look big?” she blurted out during the first set) that Frank, Dean and Sammy might have made her a charter member of “The Rat Pack.”
Genecco launched the first set with four songs from the new CD, the highlight being the one original song in the mix, Bill Zeffiro’s “Universal Truth (Schmuck in Love),” which is nominated for a 2012 MAC Award (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) and is one of the best homages to a Swingin’ Sinatra tune you’ll ever hear. In addition to the retro-Nelson Riddle arrangement by Hollis “Bud” Burridge, Zeffiro’s clever lyric fits Genecco like a Sinatra fedora. (“Every man’s a schmuck when he’s in love/Doesn’t matter if he’s a king or gov/Once she bats her eyes/Logic up and flies/You’re punked, skunked, slam dunked/You’ve met your demise.”). Based on the audience’s overwhelming approval, Genecco has a new staple for her set list.
The rhyming last names are probably unintentional, but Genecco is really in her comfort zone on songs made famous by Mel Torme, Francis Faye, and Marilyn Maye, some of which were originally arranged by Russell Garcia. Terese flies high on Torme’s “Swinging on the Moon” (arranged for Genecco’s band by trombonist Mark Miller), builds from beat poet to a jazz singer crescendo on a great Daniel Fabricant arrangement of “Washington Square” (based on a 1965 Maye recording), and in set two transforms into a languid balladeer on Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Out of This World” (another Fabricant arrangement), this one based on a Garcia arrangement for Faye.
Genecco’s special guests for this special night provided a perfect compliment to the show. Robert Hicks (in town performing a solo show at the Metropolitan Room) offered a jazzy version of “The Surry with a Fringe on Top.” Terese’s fiancé, 2012 MAC Award-nominated best female vocalist, and the CD’s executive producer Shaynee Rainbolt delivered a lovely Tom Hubbard arrangement of “Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado (What a Diff’rence a Day Made),” and 20-year-old Liza Minnelli protégé and borderline Bobby Darin-clone Nicholas King (who seems to grow with every performance) joined Genecco for a rousing duet on “Learnin’ the Blues.”
In set two, after delivering a very cool rendition of “My Kind of Girl,” a 1961 James Darren hit (yes, that guy from The Time Tunnel), Terese really revealed her reverence for “The Rat Pack” when she blew the room away on the Sammy Davis, Jr. version of Arlen and Mercer’s “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home.” Then she totally nailed the swinging Riddle arrangement on the Sinatra version of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” By the end of the set, you might think the proceedings would peter out, but this group is like a great football team getting its second wind in overtime. After a sensational Kenny Lavender trumpet solo, Genecco joined in on her own lush arrangement of “The Thrill is Gone,” which sounded like the overture in a classic piece of film noir. Then the entire big band—including Lavender, Hubbard, Doug Beavers (trombone), Cliff Lyons (tenor sax—Nathan Childers was tenor sax in set one), Sean Harkness (guitar), Mayra Casales and Rex Benincasa (percussion), and especially Barry Levitt (piano)—shined both individually and together on an extended version of the classic Motown hit “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”
The entire New York entertainment grapevine should be hearing about this show (happening on the third or fourth Tuesday of every month throughout the rest of 2012). After all, who wouldn’t want to get lost in Terese Genecco’s magical musical time tunnel?