Review: FINDING WORDS FOR SPRING Finds Steve Ross in Fine Form at Birdland

Songs about sunny springtime and love and and flowers filled the air on May 20th

By: May. 25, 2024
Review: FINDING WORDS FOR SPRING Finds Steve Ross in Fine Form at Birdland
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Happily, spring is here.  And the Rodgers & Hart song titled “Spring Is Here” might spring to mind as one you’d bet on finding in Finding Words for Spring, if you’d read the advance publicity for a springtime show by Steve Ross.  He didn’t include it, but began instead with the same writing team’s “Mountain Greenery,” the verse of which includes those words: “On the first of May, it is moving day/ Spring is here, so….”  Rodgers & Hart came up again, in time, for their “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” which also mentions the month we were in on this May 20th evening, with the line “You held my hand/ Warm, like the month of May it was/ And I’ll say it was grand.”  And I’ll say, it was a grand night with Steve Ross at the grand piano, playing and singing, whether the selections were about the season in a big way, with a passing reference, or a related reference. The welcome show tune chosen as the evening’s title comes from the 1965 Broadway musical Baker Street.

There were a few comments about the tune-smiths, but there was a lot of repertoire to get to.  In good voice and good humor, the seasoned pro packed some of the picks into medleys, including two filled with songs about rain. For “April Showers,” he invited members of the audience to sing along.  Many did so, heartily, not needing a lyric sheet.  

Referencing the famous line in a poem from the 1800s, “In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” veteran Mr. Ross spoke up for the longings of longer-in-the-tooth men, with which he cutely remarked he has “some familiarity with.” And this was the lead-in to one of the most involved and poignant renditions of the night: the desire for “One More Walk Around the Garden” from the musical Carmelina.  While the singer-pianist can present himself more as an entertainer putting the spotlight on the witty lyrics of Cole Porter (this set included his laugh-out-loud list song, “They All Fall in Love”) or just let us bask in beautiful melodies and nestle into nostalgia, he gets deeper into drama in a personal way when he chooses to.  His bittersweet “Send in the Clowns” showed his most vulnerable and pensive sides, and included the additional words Stephen Sondheim wrote for Barbra Streisand, at her request. His skill in phrasing lyrics is a strength, emphasizing a clever or dramatically potent word (or group of words) via a tiny pause, a direct look at the audience, a smile, a change in vocal color, etc. Any single word substitutions are apparently understandable slips, vocabulary “understudies” with similar meanings or sounds, not a presumptuous decision to revise classics he clearly reveres. 

So, with spring associated with the time romance may bloom and Nature’s cue for flowers to do the same, such things were addressed in some of the material.  “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here!” name-drops many varieties of flowers.  We had Richard Rodger's & Oscar Hammerstein’s “Younger Than Springtime” and Hammerstein’s classic with Jerome Kern’s music,  “All the Things You Are,” which qualifies as being on target for the overall theme since the first line of the chorus is “You are the promised kiss of springtime” and I suppose it gets extra points for relevance if we recall that it’s from a musical titled Very Warm for May.    

Steve Ross, known for elegance and gentlemanliness, has a few surprising tricks up his velvet sleeve, offering an anecdote – about a matchmaker with a not-in-demand client – that ended with a well-delivered punchline about sex. 

Whether he’s presenting Finding Words for Spring or anything else, Steve Ross is never “out of season” for those who savor well-crafted songs rendered with authenticity and affection.  

Learn more about the artist at www.steveross.net

Find more upcoming shows at Birdland on their website.       




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