Review: Daryl Sherman Gets Into the Swing with BORN TO SWING at Birdland

The gentle, genial singer/pianist returns Tuesday, April 16 at 5:30

By: Apr. 14, 2024
Review: Daryl Sherman Gets Into the Swing with BORN TO SWING at Birdland
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Daryl Sherman cordially, casually, and caringly invites us to join her as members of the fan club of a performer who was born back in 1907.  (Hint: It wasn’t Kate Smith, Cab Calloway, Jane Froman, Connee Boswell, Gene Autry, Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, or John Wayne – although all were born that year.) And some fine songs associated with her special favorite came with the territory: “Georgia on My Mind” and “Thanks for the Memory,” plus some items rarely heard. The show I attended on April 9 repeats this Tuesday, April 16 at 5:30 pm, downstairs at Birdland as one songbird honors another songbird.    

I guess nobody admires the great singers of yesterday quite the way singers of today do, especially if they also favor the old standards.  The influences can be inspiring.  The torch is passed from torch singers of yore to the new weepers.  The up-and-comers would get their comeuppance if they didn’t look up to those who came before, learn, and step up to the plate (or, rather, the mic).  The admiration situation is one reason we have all those tribute shows and tribute albums.  They can be especially effective when the influence and fondness come through and when the between-songs biographical information and analysis are especially compelling.  The always charming singer-pianist Daryl Sherman is a longtime appreciator of a stylish lady from decades ago who doesn’t get as much mention or attention these days as some other recording artists, band singers, and jazz-leaning interpreters: Her name was Mildred Bailey.  

Saluting Mildred Bailey, whose comparatively short but distinctive career roughly covered the

Review: Daryl Sherman Gets Into the Swing with BORN TO SWING at Birdland
Mildred Bailey

years between the Depression and World War II, is not a new thing for Daryl Sherman.  Her current act revisits the revisiting she did via a CD recorded in the 1990s with John Cocuzzi, Celebrating Mildred Bailey and Red Norvo. Mr. Cocuzzi plays vibes — as did Red Norvo, Mildred Bailey’s musical mate and marital mate.  (He was her third husband; the lady born Mildred Eleanor Rinker took and held onto the first one’s surname.)  Although seven songs from the album were included in the set, including the Bailey signature piece, “Rockin’ Chair,” there were no vibes on the stage at Birdland Theater, except the good vibes filling the air along with the music provided by frequent Sherman collaborators: bassist Boots Maleson, guitarist James Chirillo, and Loren Schoenberg, the sax man who played piano on the numbers when the singer didn’t accompany herself.  She sat out one number, giving the spotlight to them for a cool instrumental romp on “Honeysuckle Rose.” 

A sincere but informal tribute, the show wasn’t especially tight and the talk not terribly terse.  And there was some slightly distracting rifling through a big pile of sheet music to find something.  (Maybe there was an on-the-spot decision to change the order.)  There was some meandering, with a couple of tangents indicated (mentioning some historical fact, only to say something along the lines of “We’ll get to that a little later,” but that didn’t always happen).  But the Bailey bio bits are worth knowing: it was a musical family. The mother was a Native American and they grew up on a reservation in Idaho; she sang with many name musicians of the era (like Paul Whiteman, the Dorseys, and Benny Goodman), got work for her brother Al Rinker and his singing partner – a guy starting out named Bing Crosby, introduced some classics, had hits, sang on radio shows, etc.

I’ve seen Daryl Sherman perform numerous times over the years: in solo and group shows, stages big and small, playing Cole Porter’s piano at the Waldorf-Astoria, and have enjoyed her recordings, too.  She has her own ingratiating style and sunny-sweet sound and warm personality as a pianist and singer.  You can tell she loves and respects lyrics.  However, at this show, they didn’t all come through distinctly.  Was it the mic placement/setting of the two different mics she used?  It was frustrating, especially because there were relatively few songs people would know by heart and some lyrics I’ve always liked that are too good to miss, such as “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry.”      

First-hand memories were provided by a special guest: Mildred Bailey’s niece (daughter of brother Al Rinker), Julia Rinker Miller.  She talked about being a little child dazzled by but also encouraged by her famous aunt (who died in 1951).  With a lovely timbre and grace, she sang “You Started Something” written by her father and Floyd Huddleston. It was very touching.  

Mildred Bailey’s profile may very well be higher soon: There have been several news articles stating that a movie is in the works – a biopic about Mildred Bailey, with Academy Award nominee Lily Gladstone attached.  I’ve got my fingers crossed and they’re also itching to pull my old Mildred Bailey records off the shelf.  I haven’t heard them in a long time and Daryl Sherman’s set reminded me how much I liked them.  And isn’t that what this kind of theme show should do?       

Find more about Daryl Sherman on her website at

Get tickets to the next performance of this show on Tuesday April 16th on Birdland's website.

(Header photo credit: Stephen Sorokoff)


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