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BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

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For her New York City and Birdland debut solo show, Marissa Licata came out guns blazing.

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

When Marissa Licata named her show STRINGS ON FIRE, she wasn't messing around. The violinist with the lightning-fast bow proved to a Birdland Theater audience recently that the reputation that precedes her is, indeed, very well earned: at any time, there was every possibility that her bow, her strings, her violin itself might burst into flames. So much passion and intensity from one musician is breathtaking to behold - and though there are probably (still) people who might find it difficult to comprehend that all that enormity, all that excess, all that (yes) fire could come not only from a woman but a woman of such petite stature, this writer found it all absolutely natural. Marissa Licata is merely proof positive of the power of women, and hers is a power and a musical glory that must be caught in real-time for maximum appreciation. In short: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE is one hell of a music program.

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named Clearly a woman of style, Ms. Licata began her show in a most theatrical way (that this writer will not be giving away, for the benefit of future audiences), demonstrating her skills as a musician but also as a bandleader, one who worked meticulously to curate and rehearse a musical program that would capture the attention of her audience. There was never, at any time, any pandering to the crowd, no soft-pedaling in case there were people in the audience who prefer an evening of singing to an instrumental show: Licata and co. just did a deep dive into the music and let the audience keep up with them or not - it did seem as though much of the crowd was made up of fellow musicians because there were points of the show when Licata or one of her band members would do something that might, to a layperson, be cool, but that caused these particular patrons to scream in appreciation, at times even jumping from their seats. That might sound objectionable in print but the truth is that it greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the evening - it even served as something of an audible tour guide, letting those of us, perhaps, not quite in the know know that we had just witnessed something remarkable.

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named Factually, Marissa Licata and her band are remarkable... not just in the music they play and the way they play it, but in the way they play with each other. Marissa was very open about the fact that certain of her musicians are long time friends... correction... looooooooooooooong time friends, while others are new to the family. In between songs, in very unrehearsed and comfortable chit chat with the crowd, Licata shared amusing and heart-warming stories about her college days with trumpeter Jerry Sabatini, and she took a moment or two to call herself out for making sh*t up about the origin of her Bulgarian songs and how bass player Martin Doykin will bust her because he is actually of Bulgarian descent and knows when she is, shall we say, tellin' little white lies. When the team is not, though, bantering and laughing (and there is a LOT of laughing) they want to play together. They get up in each others' faces and get down into the music and they become a family of musicians, speaking the same language, a language that we in the audience may not, fully, understand but from which we definitely benefit by being in the room. And when it's time for a solo... observe how the musicians not in play will stand to one side and watch their colleague go. It is a sense of respect and admiration that is refreshing, uplifting, glorious to see. The fifty minutes that this writer saw of Marissa Licata and her wonderful band were fifty uplifting glorious minutes, and no mistake.

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

Sadly, that's all I got, and don't think I'm not unhappy about it.

Marissa and co. played for some seventy or so minutes last week and this journalist who booked three back-to-back shows in one night, had to bounce early. Sadly, STRINGS ON FIRE started late - and this isn't me calling out the club because Birdland is notoriously punctual. Of all the clubs and cabarets I review, Birdland is one of the best at starting shows on time, as opposed to some others that we won't discuss here. On this night, though, I was just unlucky, and they started late, and I had to leave early to get to another show, and it hurt my heart because I was having the BEST time. The result is that I missed Marissa's final four numbers, all of which included the legendary James Montgomery, who joined in on harmonica and vocals - and I wouldn't even have mentioned it, except that Marissa, Mr. Montgomery, Gianni Valenti, and everyone else at Birdland would have been wondering "Did he actually not like James Montgomery?!" No, I love James Montgomery - but not on September 13th. What I did love on September 13th was Marissa Licata on Violin, Jerry Sabatini on Trumpet, Matt Marcus on Piano, Martin Doykin on Bass, and Shannon Ford on Drums. It was one heck of a great show and, perhaps selfishly, I fully expect (hope) that Birdland will book the band again. After all, it was a pretty full house that night, and, with the kind of talent she and her band are swingin' around up there, the chances of future sold-out houses is almost a foregone conclusion.

So when Licata and co. get rebooked into Birdland, you can bet that I will be there.

Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE has concluded a one-night run but check the Birdland calendar for possible future shows and other great acts HERE.

Visit the Marissa Licata website HERE.

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

BWW Review: Marissa Licata STRINGS ON FIRE at Birdland Theater Is A Show Aptly Named

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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