Review: Janis Siegel Gets Busy at Dizzy's Club

A silky-smooth sweet night of music

By: Mar. 31, 2024
Review: Janis Siegel Gets Busy at Dizzy's Club
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In her solo work and collaborations with other singers, such as her most celebrated teamwork as a member of the Manhattan Transfer for 50 years, the voice of Janis Siegel – swinging, scatting, or smoothly soothing — has been a treat for the ears. March 20 was no exception.  Looking over her shoulder at the striking view of the Columbus Circle neighborhood of Manhattan seen through the giant fifth-floor window of Dizzy’s Club on March 20, she remarked that she doesn’t often get “so far uptown.”  Greenwich Village is where she lives, and it’s also her professional stomping grounds this spring, with gigs near Washington Square – such as the one at Zinc the night before and the upcoming Sunday Brunch sets on April 7 at North Square.  There, she’ll be accompanied by bassist Harvie S and guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, who were with her for the set at Dizzy’s.  I last saw these two musicians a few months ago at their show with jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan, celebrating her 95th birthday, and she was scheduled to be back with them this night, but she was under the weather, and so the very able Janis Siegel stepped in without missing a step. Drummer Tim Horner joined the group. 

As a nod to the lady she was filling in for, whose sets have long acknowledged jazz giant Charlie Parker, Janis Siegel included his composition “Barbados,” with lyrics added by Jon Hendricks, the late singer and master of fashioning words for instrumental compositions that had been around for a while. Tackling his sometimes tricky creations with avalanches of words is nothing new for songstress Siegel as the vocally athletic artist took them on as far back as 1985.  That was with the recording of the Grammy-winning Manhattan Transfer album and she revisited one of its tracks, “Sing Joy Spring” (a Clifford Brown melody) with joy undiminished.  

Her versatility and musical skill were also on display on “Lucky to Be Me” from the musical On the Town when she used her voice to simulate the sound of a trumpet for an extended section and when she was accompanied ever so deftly just by the bass of Harvie S (in the long tradition of Sheila Jordan) for the Duke Ellington/ Milt Gabler classic “In a Mellow Tone.”  Actually, much of the evening was indeed in a mellow tone, a relaxed performance by confident, long-careered folks who certainly don’t need to be showy or hyperactive or indulge in endless instrumental solos to “prove” anything.  Not that they seem to be lazily resting on their laurels. They’re just comfortable in their own musical skins and with each other, so these pros project serenity and ease.  “The power of the ballad compels me to learn it,” explained Janis Siegel about her attraction to one of her choices. 

Although a months-long international farewell tour that wrapped up in December was the self-imposed calling-it-quits as a group for Manhattan Transfer, Manhattan is fortunate to still have Janis Siegel singing solo and accompanied by expert musicians.  

Header photo credit: Kevin Alvey

Visit Jazz at Lincoln Center's website to find more shows at their theaters, including Dizzy's Club.