Though all of Harvey Granat's midday events are illuminating and entertaining, his most recent SONGS AND STORIES on March 16 at 92Y could've easily continued at least another half hour buoyed by audience enthusiasm. The event's special guests, author/producer/journalist Will Friedwald (who has his own 92Y series), and President of Jimmy Van Heusen's catalog, his great nephew, Brook Babcock, were both knowledgeable, engaging raconteurs. It was also a great pleasure to watch the two men join infectiously enjoying the afternoon.BWW Review: Will Friedwald Pays Tribute to Harold Arlen in New CLIP JOINT at 92Y January 26, 2017
On January 24, Will Friedwald, producer, feature writer for The Wall Street Journal, author of nine books on popular music, countless articles, and liner notes, moved his nostalgic CLIP JOINT series to Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street Y. For the uninitiated, CLIP JOINT offers curated video clips---many not seen in decades---from a huge vintage collection of quality sources, DVD and 16mm (not downloaded from YouTube).
Each themed program features writers, musicians, and/or vocalists associated with our American Songbook. Friedwald's economic commentary, encyclopedic knowledge, and openness to questions is a unique resource for fans and professionals alike.BWW Review: Alex Leonard Celebrates Nat King Cole with L-O-V-E at Pangea January 20, 2017
Alex Leonard is a classy performer. His relaxed, minimalist style and adherence to vocals as written take one back to an agreeable past. Jazz riffs weave around rather than obscure melody. Lyric meaning is gracefully maintained. Aided and abetted by expert veterans Jay Leonhart on bass and Al Gafa on guitar, Leonard saluted the great Nat King Cole at Pangea on January 18 with a bit of history, a couple of illuminating anecdotes, and signature songs.BWW Review: Michael Feinstein Salutes Judy Garland at His Annual Holiday Show December 17, 2016
'For 47 years, the world of entertainment was blessed with a force of nature called Judy Garland,' Michael Feinstein begins, 'and for Judy, it all began at MGM.' As the artist takes his time with Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz's 'That's Entertainment,' screens on either side of the stage show clips from the film of the same name deftly edited to reflect every lyric. A coda of special material makes 'star' recognition even more specific.
In Feinstein's A HOLIDAY TO REMEMBER at Feinstein's/54 Below, we hear songs from Garland's films and appearances, some iconic, others less known. Despite a life of trials, we're told, the performer left a legacy of optimism and joy. She had a quick-witted sense of humor, especially about herself. On one occasion, when Lucille Ball was praised for her humor, she responded that it was scripted, while Judy Garland's was spontaneous. The show is peppered with illuminating anecdotes.BWW Review: Harvey Granat (with Will Friedwald and David Lahm) Covers the Life and Career of Burt Bacharach In SONGS AND STORIES Season Ender December 10, 2016
Karen Akers' ardent 'Francophilia--- and I don't care whether or not it's a real word' was seeded in adolescence and brought to bloom by living in France, becoming fluent in the language, and absorbing European sensibilities (reincarnation is also a distinct possibility). Offering a show of French material is, to the artist, like sharing a part of her soul. Never has this been so clear and affecting as Aker's muscular performance tonight, enriched by maturity and new vocal elasticity. With the formidable Alex Rybeck acting as musical director/pianist and emotional collaborator, the evening soared.BWW Review: Barb Jungr and John McDaniel Try Something New at Birdland November 30, 2016
Barb Jungr is a maverick. She sings R&B and blues from her gut, can slide into jazz phrasing like muted brass, dismantles what we classify as rock so it's stripped to its meaningful bone, has a fervent moral compass, and is characteristically acerbic. Whether her voice rips or ripples, it's authentic. You can tell I'm a fan.
In an effort, one conjectures, to broaden her appeal, she's lately partnered with musician John McDaniel, whose background is theater. While the two are amiable on stage and offer appealing harmony, arrangements sound the same--- somewhere between Broadway and pop, no matter what the material. Almost all vocals with McDaniel are brighter, louder, and faster than they might be. November 12, 2016
Hirschfeld might draw Judy Collins as a halo of white hair, doe eyes, and a long black line curving, unbroken, to cradle her guitar. She's the image of unstudied elegance, natural, and despite the artist's thanks to Elizabeth Arden, soulfully organic.
Judy Collins has been performing for 57 years in what she deems 'the second oldest profession.' Many of us came of age with her experimental, rallying lead. When the audience is invited to sing along they do so softly, sure of lyrics embedded in meaningful memories. Those of us who continue to show up year after year hear some of the same history---she was supposed to be a classical pianist, but opted for guitar and earned her chops in the folk world---and stories, like the night she awoke in Woodstock after an Albert Grossman party and sat on the floor secretly listening to Bobby (Dylan) work on 'Mr. Tambourine Man.'BWW Review: Jarrod Spector's JUKEBOX LIFE at Feinstein's/54 Below is Raucous Fun November 4, 2016
Jarrod Spector began performing at three years old. A film of his singing 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie' with emphatic gestures shows the talented artist preternaturally polished. We're then treated to a clip from Ed McMahon's Star Search in which the six-year-old, pint-sized pretender performs Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill's 'Mack the Knife.' His parents, he explains, favored Bobby Darin to the extent that they overlooked the song's subject was 'a serial killer.' Tonight's version is brass-centric, Las Vegas swing.
JUKEBOX LIFE, presented at Feinstein's 54/Below, is the most recent iteration in a series of biographical shows. ('Time to move on.') It adds Spector's marriage and his role as songwriter Barry Mann in the Carole King musical BEAUTIFUL to that of playing Frankie Valli in JERSEY BOYS and early aspirations. (Interestingly, he was unaware of both the men into whose shoes he has stepped.) Its title was inspired by a fan who asked, 'What's it like to have this incredible jukebox life?'BWW Review: Consummate Entertainer Sidney Myer Delights in His Return to the Laurie Beechman Theatre October 20, 2016
Twelve years after his last full show and a full 36 since he performed at the venerable Laurie Beechman Theatre, entertainer (and Don't Tell Mama booker) Sidney Myer commanded the stage as if he'd been there yesterday. I attended the second of three sold-out presentations marked as fundraisers for The Mabel Mercer Foundation, likely the only organization for which Sidney would take on such a project. The concerts are a 'thank you' to the art's standard bearer and its creator Donald Smith, who gave Sidney wide exposure and exceptional latitude at every Cabaret Convention from the third on, a tradition maintained today.BWW Review: DREAM SUITE: SONGS IN BLUES & JAZZ Is An Exceptional Evening at Birdland June 30, 2016
Though somewhat familiar with and already an admirer of actor/vocalists Carpathia Jenkins and Alton Fitzgerald White, I was, until tonight, unaware of the apparently prolific musician, songwriter, librettist, and educator Louis Rosen. Rosen's Dream Suite, which occupied the second part of this June 28 show at Birdland, unearths the music of poems by American poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes (1902 -1967).BWW Review: Michael Feinstein's SING ME A SWING SONG Breezes, Bounces and Bows at Jazz at Lincoln Center June 11, 2016
Jazz at Lincoln Center's 2016 Popular Song series at the Appel Room ended this year's agenda on June 8 with host Michael Feinstein's appreciation of the interconnection between swing and popular song, a subject about which he's clearly enthusiastic. Each musical era, he suggests, is previewed by a song marking change: Alexander's Ragtime Band ushered in ragtime, Sing, Sing Sing, prefaced swing, Rock Around the Clock heralded rock n' roll. With the able assistance of Musical Director Tedd Firth (also on piano), Firth's Big Band, and special guest vocalists Allyson Briggs, Jeremy Jordan, and Catherine Ross, Feinstein and Co. delivered a lively evening of familiar and eclectic material.Bronwyn Elvis Comics- A Musical Theater Fan Goes Graphic June 7, 2016
14-year-old Bronwyn Chochinov always loved to draw. As a 4th and 5th grader, she contributed ongoing comic strips in her school's High School newspaper: How to Survive 4th Grade, and How to Survive 5th Grade. She has also, from a very young age, loved musicals. As best as she can remember, Bronwyn was 5 when she was taken to Beauty and the Beast starring Donny Osmond as Gaston. Mother Victoria Brown was a fan and the two waited for an autograph. 'There were all these ladies my mom's age going crazy. They were like trampling me and I started crying. He picked me up and talked to me. I've gone to the stage door ever since.'BWW Review: Marissa Mulder's Impressionistic Theater/Cabaret Piece Exploring the Life of Marilyn Monroe is Both Fascinating and Fragmented June 7, 2016
When New York cabaret community insiders and frequent club goers heard that Marissa Mulder was planning a Marilyn Monroe-themed show, the consensus was the vocalist's naturally breathy voice paired with a roster of songs from Monroe's films would be a good fit. Sidestepping expectations, Mulder and Director Sondra Lee have instead put together a one-woman theater piece with almost as much monologue (using Monroe's own words) as music. Equally surprising, the impressionistic show (currently in the midst of a four-show run at the Laurie Beechman Theatre after launching in February at the Metropolitan Room) features not Monroe's familiar material, but rather songs that reflect what its creators intuit as her internal life.BWW Review: Ronny Whyte's Inimitable Elegant Style Buoys The Jazz Room at Kitano June 6, 2016
Ronny Whyte epitomizes everything gracious, refined, and sophisticated that's become rare in music presented by artists under a certain age and temperament. Even with jazz interpretation, his accessible choices and deceptively casual delivery present songs as their authors intended. When he composes, tacit symbiosis with lyricists creates melody and images that seem to come from a less complicated era. Last Saturday night, Whyte was joined by veteran collaborators--Boots Maleson on bass,David Silliman on drums, and guest guitarist Sean Harkness--for a show that featured mostly eclectic American Songbook standards and originals from his own oeuvre.BWW Review: JOEY ARIAS (with Ben Allison) Brings His LITTLE BLACK BOOK and Downtown Sensibilities To Pangea June 1, 2016
Joey Arias, vocalist/songwriter/actor/performance artist/host, has been on the scene here since the 1980s. Visually and vocally distinctive, Arias's signature black bangs and ponytail have been on stages such as Club 57, Astor Theater, HERE, and Abrons Art Center--not to mention playing Mistress of Seduction at Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity in Las Vegas. To say the physically diminutive Arias is larger than life is a comment on her fully inhabited, unique presence and talent. On May 30 (the third of seven show run through late July), she's aided and abetted in Little Black Book (no idea what the title means) by Musical Director (and superb bass player) Ben Allison and guitarist Brandon Seabrook.BWW Review: With TWO GUYS AND A GRAND at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, Cabaret Veterans Jim Brochu & Steve Ross Evoke the Spirit of Music Halls May 28, 2016
Veteran performers Jim Brochu and Steve Ross have known one another since the 1970s, an era when New York was filled with piano bars, cabaret rooms, and nightclubs. Pause for a deep, wistful sigh. Framing their new show, Two Guys and a Grand (last Wednesday night at the Laurie Beechman Theatre), in the kind of friendly antagonism and winking shtick popular during vaudeville, the two very different performers manage to be both broad and classy. May 26, 2016
Last Saturday night at the Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center presented a celebration on what would have been Ray Charles' 85th Birthday. The program was led by Musical Director and trumpeter Kenny Rampton (who once toured with the Ray Charles band), and included 10 longtime members of the icon's orchestra, along with the most recent Rayettes (backup singers Renee Georges, Katrina Harper, and Angela Workman). Ray Charles Robinson, the genius of soul, his music was beyond genre, Rampton told the audience. Anything Mr. C. did from country to blues to the National Anthem was all Ray Charles . . .'BWW Review: Mandy Patinkin Performs Passionately for National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene at Jazz at Lincoln Center May 25, 2016
In its robust 101st season, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is the longest consecutively producing Yiddish theater company in the world. Its mission: To celebrate the Jewish experience through the performing arts and to transmit rich cultural legacy in exciting new ways. The theatre's Gala 2016 this past Monday evening at The Rose Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center honored Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek--long a leading figure in Yiddish performing arts--and his wife Debra Mlotek (a pediatric occupational therapist), who has been pivotal in creating educational children's programs.BWW Review: Ann Hampton Callaway's Ardent BUT BEAUTIFUL Thrills Birdland May 6, 2016
I don't know when Ann Hampton Callaway started this chapter of her life, but she's emphatically in a new one. The artist savors every note, propelled headlong into her songs with uncommon exuberance. Signature authority extends not only to stellar scat but to enacting selected material. Accompanied by The Ted Rosenthal Trio (Ted Rosenthal, piano; Martin Wind, bass;Tim Horner, drums), Callaway shines luminous at Birdland (where I saw her latest show Wednesday night and which continues for two more shows Friday and Saturday night at 8:30 and 11 pm).