BWW Reviews: Singer Cortes Alexander Returns to Sterling's with a Swell Noel
On Sunday December 22 the amazing Cortes Alexander presented his Thou Swell Noel to a packed house at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal.Alexander has such frenetic energy and charm that, and I've said this before, you just want to wrap him up. What a joyous Christmas present...and with his two glorious backup singers, the Swell Girls Melissa Bailey and Julie Garnye, who could ask for anything more? Yes, a band! There was an electric four-piece band with musical director Norman Ludwin on bass, David Arana at the piano, Mark Converse on drums and Paul Landry on guitar. Paul's 10-year old son Zeut Landry was a very special guest who accompanied Alexander on a Cajon Drum Box during his beautiful composition "Marguerite". This 'Little Drummer Boy' is also big on talent!
Highlights of the evening included more Christmas songs than last year's show... and a few new surprises that made for an exciting and fun 90-minute set. All three - Alexander, Bailey and Garnye - opened with Kay Thompson's fantastic arrangement of "Jingle Bells" which weaves in "Sleigh Ride" and "Ring Out The Bells". Also Christmasy was "Winter Wonderland", "Baby It's Cold Outside", and "The Christmas Song" as a fab duet for Bailey and Garnye. Bailey held us spellbound as she performed Steve Allen's jazzy "Cool Yule" and Garnye captivated with the smooth and sultry "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Toward the end the three did "Mele Kelikimaka" with coconuts strategically placed. Alexander loves to play with props and toys. As a kid, his mom filled a room one Christmas with troll dolls, and one came out of his coat pocket as a gift to Zeut after his dynamic accompaniment. Besides "Marguerite", Alexander also did his beautiful "Pilot Bird" in tandem with "My Buddy" as a tribute to his mom. Another favorite "Sing Happy" was performed with "Get Happy" and "Happy Days" intertwined. New stuff included: a great arrangement of, or as Alexander likes to call it 'acoustic spin' on his childhood favorite tune "Never My Love", an equally divine Peggy Lee song "Jump For Joy" and the unusually beautiful ballad "When Winter Comes". A jubilant "You Are My Sunshine" brought down the curtain.
Alexander's style encompasses many genres including pop, R&B, jazz and country, and it's the loving manner in which he delivers a song that really makes him stand apart. He gets you involved... and happy. Cortes, Melissa, and Julie, you are OUR SUNSHINE.
(event photo credit: Stan Mazin)
left to right: Ed Donovan, Linda Lavin, Cortes Alexander, Rosalyn Kind, Sally Kirkland
left to right: Julie Garnye, Michael Sterling, Cortes Alexander, Melissa Bailey and in foreground Zeut Landry
left to right: Julie Garnye, Cortes Alexander, Melissa Bailey, Ed Donovan and in foregorund Zeut Landry
left to right: Julie Garnye, Cortes Alexander, Zeut Landry, Melissa Bailey
left to right: Linda Lavin, Cortes Alexander, Rosalyn Kind, Sally Kirkland