Album Review: MAURICIO MARTINEZ LIVE IN NYC Loaded With Lush Vocals

A live recording of his sold-out 54 Below show gives Broadway leading man another feather in his cap.

By: Feb. 08, 2024
Album Review: MAURICIO MARTINEZ LIVE IN NYC Loaded With Lush Vocals

In March of 2023, Mauricio Martinez debuted his musical cabaret 5’11” BASED IN NYC at 54 Below to sold out crowds and a rave review from BroadwayWorld (read it HERE) - and the response to the outing led Mr. Martinez and his longtime collaborator, Robbie Rozelle, to open up the discussion of turning the show into a live recording.  Together, the twosome (and fellow Team Martinez member, Musical Director Brian J. Nash) conceived to play an encore of the program later that same year, this time with 54 Below’s own Amanda Raymond behind the scenes acting as recording engineer;  on February 1st, Mauricio Martinez LIVE IN NYC went live on Spotify and every other digital platform.  And the album is just as good as the show (which received another rave when BroadwayWorld’s Ricky Pope attended the recording concert for review HERE).

This live album captures a cabaret artist at the top of his game, not just as a performer but as a creative.   Together with Rozelle, Mauricio took an inventive idea centering around the far-too-frequent pastime of self-submissions that post-COVID actors have had to struggle with these last years (give the actors a break and let them back the room, already) and made a cabaret.  Centering his show around the collection of self-tapes filling up his Dropbox, Martinez takes the audience on a journey through the roles he has tried out for, the songs he has recorded, the parts he has played, and the ones he, yet, longs for.  It’s a clever premise, one that is already being ripped off by other artists lacking either imagination or ideas of their own, but it started here, and the three gentlemen (along with Yasuhiko Fukuoka, who mixed, mastered, and edited the album with detailed care) have done a more than respectable job at capturing the excitement of a live cabaret performance, not to mention the marvelous musical experience to be enjoyed at the Martinez concert.

Album Review: MAURICIO MARTINEZ LIVE IN NYC Loaded With Lush Vocals

First of all, the entire album sounds spectacular.  Between them, the technicians on the project have managed to keep all the levels balanced so that the band never overpowers Martinez, and so that Mauricio never sounds like he is singing a cappella.  Even the audience applause and laughter can be heard on the album, which often doesn’t happen, so one might assume that the audience was mic’d (or the technicians are magicians).  Whatever the case may be, it is a complete listening experience… and a shocking one, too, because reading the liner notes reveals that the band consists of only four instruments, while listening to the album feels like you’re hearing a Carnegie Hall orchestra… this is a GREAT band.

As for the concert itself, it is a fabulous mix of Broadway up-tempos and ballads, all of them chosen to represent those famous (infamous?) self-tapes, although the exciting opening number “One Night Only/I’m Your Baby Tonight” was clearly created for this show, unless Mauricio Martinez is hoping to play a Dreamgirl sometime soon (and in these new days of fluidity in casting, anything is possible).  Along the more conventional lines of Broadway casting, though, there are self-tapes here for the roles of Billy Flynn, Nicky Arnstein, Lancelot du Lac, The Phantom, King George III and a slew of other roles, some of which Mauricio actually booked, as demonstrated by an “Impossible Dream” that should be ranked as one of the best ever - it must be heard to be believed.  But, in a way, all of this material must be heard to be believed because Mauricio Martinez has one of the most unbelievably amazing voices I’ve ever heard on a man.  I’m frankly saddened by the fact that I’m reviewing the album and not the live show - I’d love to hear this voice in person - it sounds very powerful on all the big numbers (“Can’t Stop The Feeling “), yet very controlled on the quiet ones (“Good Thing Going”) and filled with the abilities of an actor’s nuance, ranging from a Latin language “Music of the Night” to an impressive “Another Hundred People” that is not remotely affected by the fact that Martinez is an English-second-language actor.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the show and the CD are a great advertisement for Martinez’s abilities and the roles that directors should be looking at him for.  I can’t think of a single self-tape that is covered on the album that, were I a director, wouldn’t get his headshot up on my corkboard.

True to form with most Robbie Rozelle-helmed shows, this one has plenty of guest artists, with Ana Villafane appearing via recording (there is no photo of Villafane in the CD booklet, and her voice sounds recorded on the album, so I am leaping to conclusions here) and with Linedy Genao and Alexis Michelle performing live.  The Bad Cinderella star contributes to a Latin Medley (during which she admits to not knowing who Sancho Panza or what Man of LaMancha is, and, as a Latin musical theater actor, that’s a real shame), and the RuPaul’s Drag Race alum duets on a Funny Girl song that actually gives her more musical material than Martinez.  It’s all good, though, because both guest artists sound fantastic and act as effective scene partners for the playful leading man - a playfulness that comes across throughout the entire album.  He is playful and appreciative and gracious regarding everyone from these guests to his band to his audience (which includes his Mama, up from Mexico!), and all of the music on the album is gorgeous, thanks to all of the creatives, be they musical, technical, or directorial - and that’s just a discussion of the audible portion of the recording.  When acquiring the album away from a streaming platform like Spotify, you get the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a CD booklet filled with luscious Michael Hull photographs and Robbie Rozelle’s magnificent design work, and, let’s face it - Spotify is convenient but reading a CD booklet is a pleasure.  This is a really good booklet. The Maurcio Martinez camp has created a CD worthy of your attention and enjoyment over and over again.  And if 5’11” BASED IN NEW YORK ever tours to your town, get a ticket - it sounds (and looks) like a marvelous show.

Mauricio Martinez LIVE IN NYC is a 2023 release on an independent label from Mauricio Martinez and Robbie Rozelle, who share producing credit.  It is available on all digital platforms.  For Spotify click HERE  For the Mauricio Martinez IG click HERE.

The Mauricio Martinez LIVE IN NYC BAND is:

Brian J. Nash on Piano, vocals, MD and Arranger, Eleanor Norton on Cello, Mary Ann McSweeney on Bass, Jeremy Yaddaw on Drums.

 




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