BWW Review: Laurie Krauz & Daryl Kojak Celebrate 25-Year Collaboration With Magnificent Show in 'New York Cabaret's Greatest Hits' Series at Metropolitan Room
We are lucky in New York City. The talent here is unbelievable. Sometimes you settle in for an intimate evening at a little local club and you get your socks blown off. On Friday the 13th (of May, to be exact), I had such an experience at the latest monthly installment of Stephen Hanks' Metropolitan Room series (Associate Producer, Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, MD), New York Cabaret's Greatest Hits. The featured performers were Vocalist Laurie Krauz and her Musical Director Daryl Kojak celebrating their 25-year musical collaboration "It's a 'Greatest Hits' show within a Greatest Hits series!" Hanks extolled before introducing his stars for the evening.
From the opening notes of "Never Neverland" (Betty Comden and Adolph Green/Jule Styne), Krauz' deep, rich voice was a fearless instrument. Krauz alighted on every color of her voice, and sometimes pounced, embracing the entire palette right away. The next number, "Birthday Blues" (a Kojak original) opened with Krauz and Kojak in unison, his piano playing what her voice was scatting, and vice versa. The meld was impressively playful. By the time they were into their third tune, the sexy Cole Porter romp "Just One of Those Things," the pair were completely locked into one another's grooves, Krauz' husky horn voice making an appearance.
Krauz inhabited the music. She crawled up into the music. She snuggled and spooned the music, wearing it like a second skin. He voice embodied the songs and she wasn't afraid to use her body as an extension of her vocal instrument, giving a physical, sensual performance. Clutching the piano, Krauz turned toward her partner at the keys, seeming to be "slain in the spirit" of music, doubling over in a rhythmic trance, transcending before our very eyes.
One is extremely lucky to find a good partner in life. Usually we think about that in terms of a romantic partnership, but it is just as important for an artist to find a great collaborator, where each partner can embrace every piece of the other with support, understanding, and celebration.
Speaking about meeting Kojak for the first time, Krauz recalled the "magic" and the feeling of "being levitated off the floor when he played for [her]." Kojak took the rare opportunity to speak about his collaborator in glowing terms. When he first met Krauz, Kojak was impressed with her "big ears," meaning that with her wide-ranging gift she could go anywhere musically. He was also struck by Laurie's "adventurous spirit" and clearly they've made the most of their on-going adventure, striking out for exotic musical terrain, exploring where not many are equipped to travel.
Krauz and Kojak possess not only musical chops but emotional fearlessness as well. One of the highlights of the evening was the balladic mash up of Bacharach's "A House Is Not a Home" with "Since You Stayed Here" (Hal David/Peter Larson and Josh Rubins). Krauz caressed emotional topography honestly, deeply, affectingly. Drummer Gene Lewin, who has been working with the duo for almost as long as they've been working together, created dramatic tension with his drumming. The song was absolutely captivating, a masterpiece.
The arrangements Kojak and Krauz have created are another adventurous, playful way they express themselves. The rhythmic, boogie-woogie-ish version of Carol King's classic "You've Got a Friend," from their hit show, Tapestry Rewoven, was fresh and unexpected, allowing us to hear the song anew. Krauz made the song her own, adding new ad lib lyrics at the end, designating herself King's "co-writer" on the tune now.
The darkly atmospheric rendition of "Some Enchanted Evening," brought that classic South Pacific song back to life, and gave Kojak space to show off another facet of his artistry. Again, Krauz took us on an emotional journey down to the underworld of the heart, and back up to the surface of the earth.
The duo's sexy, funny nature came out in the bawdy, cheeky "Send Me a Man," and Thomas Dolby's "The Key to Your Ferrari." Bassist Sean Conly contributed an upbeat, engaging solo, as did Lewin on drums. In fact, this celebratory show was akin to the performers taking the audience along on a ride in a Ferrari--fast, exciting, even a little dangerous. This show was not simply performed, but it was alive. You can feel the difference.
A voice has multiple realms, as all singers know. They may favor some realms and avoid others. Krauz leaves nothing in her immense range untapped and she is confident in every centimeter of her magnificent instrument. As for Kojak, he's not afraid to bang on that piano like a kid having a tantrum or like an experimental artist making sacred, primitive sound for sounds' sake. From raw to refined, he's in touch with all the emotional forms that music takes, and draws on it all from New Orleans funk to R&B to elegant jazz, to the outer reaches of pop genres, hanging out on the border between mystical and musical, as in "Some Enchanted Evening." He's not afraid to be out at night in the "bad" neighborhood, where life has an earthy flavor.
The duo's daring came to the fore in Kojak's composition, "Ducksoup." Krauz used her vocal instrument masterfully as a muted trumpet/trombone and the effect was magical, delightful, surprising. Kojak's solo was luscious.
The night wrapped up with "Glory of Love" (Billy Hill), Krauz' "favorite of all they do together." Kojak's deep R&B groove solo again showed that he's comfortable playing anything. The encore, "Here's to Life" (Phyllis Molinary/Artie Butler), has been sung by just about every major cabaret performer and Krauz's rendition was a beautiful, melancholy poignant end to a magnificent show celebrating this joyous collaboration. Friday the 13th was a lucky day indeed to be in the audience at the Metropolitan Room and to be a part of the creative, fearless world of Laurie Krauz and Daryl Kojak as they happily kicked off their next 25 years together.
The monthly series New York Cabaret's Greatest Hits (Stephen Hanks, Producer; Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, Associate Producer) continues at the Metropolitan Room through the end of 2016. The remaining schedule:
June 13: Barbara Porteus, Up On the Roof
July 13: Maureen Taylor, Taylor Made: Bob Merrill
August 13: Jeff Harnar, The 1959 Broadway Songbook
September 13: Janice Hall, Grand Illusions: The Music of Marlene Dietrich
October 7: Susan Winter, Love Rolls On
November 2, Deb Berman, All In Good Time
December 13: Ellen Kaye, Ice Wine: Songs for Christmas and Dark Winter Nights
Tickets are $25 plus a two-drink minimum. For reservations, go to: www.metropolitanroom.com.