BWW Review: Nancy Harms Is a Brilliant Blue Indigo Delivering the Classics of Duke Ellington at the Metropolitan Room

BWW Review: Nancy Harms Is a Brilliant Blue Indigo Delivering the Classics of Duke Ellington at the Metropolitan Room

Nightlife is cut out of a very luxurious, royal blue bolt of velvet. It sparkles in tingling and tinkling tones. -- Duke Ellington

Opening Tuesday night with a four show run at the Metropolitan Room, Nancy Harms masterfully sang the luxurious, the lonely, and the seductive songs of the great jazz master, Duke Ellington. With classic cameo good looks and dressed in a black cocktail dress embellished with dangling rhinestone earrings, necklace, and bracelet, the statuesque Harms takes immediate charge of the night counting off her opening tune "I'm Beginning to See the Light" (Ellington/Hodges/George/James), her voice soft and sensual to the ear before subtly reaching a crescendo to the sound of a purring sultry feline. Jeremy Siskind on piano further elevates the mood as nimble fingers literally dance across the keyboard. Danton Boller on bass responds as if engaged in conversation, while drummer Williard Dyson maintains a steady driving force for all to follow. The room literally transforms to royal blue as singer and musicians take off to the spontaneous cheers of an appreciative audience. Ellington aficionados will greatly appreciate this gifted singer and her amazing trio of musicians. Nancy Harms fans should be anticipating the release of her CD based on this show in Spring of 2016 (see video of CD teaser below).

Harms continues with a fun, playfully seductive "Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me)," displaying her deliciously lush and low breathy vocal style. Boller's bass solo adds just the right amount of "tease" to please. Examining the landscape of dreaming, Harms creates on stage a powerful "private moment" with her mesmerizing interpretation of "Lost In Meditation" that (along with this exquisite musical arrangement) mystically transports her audience to a state somewhere between heightened reality and childlike fantasy.

Harms then introduces Ellington's iconic "Indigo" as a study in passion. Stating that indigo is her favorite color (an exotic color somewhere between blue and purple mostly associated with the night), Harms proclaims that "indigo brings on the sad, and sometimes sad can be delicious," which could aptly describe her take on this classic song, a performance that is also a "study in subtly." Her voice sadly lingers on each note as if saying goodbye to a long lost love, yet all the while wearing a sad soft smile on her tortured face. Simply stunning.

Harms picks up the mood and tempo a bit with "Rocks In My Bed," a fun Ellington tune paying homage to the broken-hearted that's delivered with a calculated slow simmer nearly erupting to a tempestuous boil. Siskind, Boller, and Dyson provide additional heat with sizzling solos. Harms offers her bad girl take on "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me"--and you never will--taunting and teasing and ultimately throwing off a bad romance.

Next is a brilliant three song section that feels "film noir" in approach and mood, including Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life," followed by "Strange Feeling" (lyrics by Strayhorn), and the haunting "Prelude To A Kiss," where once again Harms skillfully lures us into the wistful dreamscape of a haunted lover leaning ever-forward, eyes fixed on her audience to convey the very essence of the lyric.

Oh! How my love song gently cries for the tenderness within your eyes.
My love is a prelude that never dies. A Prelude To A Kiss.

A final favorite moment of the evening is Ellington's "Reflections In D," with lush new lyrics written for Harms (Blue Flame) by Arne Fogel. Finishing off the evening (and the mood) on a brighter note, Harms manages to move her audience from a deeper shade of indigo to the brighter rays of sunshine with Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise," where through her musical artistry (and her excellent jazz trio) one actually experiences the warm morning bliss of another new day. It is a rare moment to behold.

Nancy Harms returns to the Metropolitan Room with Ellington at Night on September 6 at 9:30 pm, September 9 at 7:00 pm, and September 19 at 11:30 pm. For reservations go to the website or call the club at 212-206-0440.

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