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Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets

UTLIMATE SINATRA showed Frank and Michael at their very best.

It's easy to forget that Michael Feinstein is a great entertainer. It's easy to forget because he does so many other things that come to mind. His work as a musicologist documenting, rescuing, restoring, and preserving the catologue of The Great American Songbook has been impressive, all these years, so that comes to mind. His presence as an impresario with nightclubs bearing his name all over the country is something for which he is known. His stature as a world-class musician springs readily to mind when a person hears his name. All these things and more, Michael Feinstein does and does well. So it's easy to forget that he is a great entertainer.

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets

Until he is before you, on a stage, entertaining you... that is when you find yourself shaking your head, holding your breath, and thinking about the fact that Michael Feinstein is a great entertainer. In fact, Michael Feinstein is as good a concert performer as anyone who has gone before him, worked alongside him, or will come after him, and that includes Frank Sinatra, the topic of Mr. Feinstein's program at Carnegie Hall, a concert appropriately titled ULTIMATE SINATRA.

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets

For ninety absolutely sublime minutes on Wednesday night, Michael Feinstein filled Zankel Hall with musical excellence by way of a carefully curated presentation of some of Frank Sinatra's most timeless hits, some of his most enduring performances... but not as a myna bird, for Michael Feinstein has his own style. And Michael Feinstein has Tedd Firth. So the arrangements were treated in ways that would allow Mr. Feinstein to maintain the legacy, the tradition, of Sinatra but to also breathe his own interpretations into the famous compositions. Naturally, when an artist is dealing with someone to whom fans have dedicated their devotion, it can be a delicate balance, knowing when to stray from the path already adored and when to push the envelope. A music historian with wisdom and an artist of instincts, Michael Feinstein and his band (featuring Firth at the piano, David Finck on bass, and Mark McLean on drums, each and every one sensational... as a group, the living end) made no wrong moves with his musical presentation. Performing songs like "The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else," "The Lady Is a Tramp," and "I Concentrate On You," Mr. Feinstein demonstrated that which has made him stand apart, as a vocalist, all these years - an enviable ability with rhythm and nuance, a knowledge of when to swing and when to act, and vocal prowess that continues to amaze, to this day.

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets The power notes are more than impressive: they are perfect. The breath control is more than unquestionable: it is unfathomable. And the acting moments are spectacular. There is this thing, this Michael Feinstein thing, that has existed, lo, these many years that nobody else does, and there is even a question in this writer's mind as to whether or not anyone else even could do it. There is this place of tenderness to which Mr. Feinstein goes during certain stories that is almost impossible to describe in vocal technique terms, but that (for years) has created a visual in this writer's mind. Imagine, if you will, that Michael Feinstein's throat is the trunk of a tree, and there, inside of that trunk, is a hole where is positioned a bird's nest. In that bird's nest sits the tiniest, sweetest, most delicate of winged creatures, singing softly and gently in the twilight. That's Michael Feinstein at his most introspective and poignant of performances. And, then, BAM - he hits you with a Sinatra big band number and fills the arena air with one of those breath-catching big notes, and you find yourself asking your inner self where it all comes from, how he does it, and how it comes across as just so effortless. It really is a wonder to behold.

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets Add to all of that the fact that Michael Feinstein is funny. He is so smart, he is so knowledgeable about the history of music, about the composers, about Mr. Sinatra, and he discusses it with you like he's just telling a story around the dining table. There are no notes. There are no stumbles. There are no long-winded lectures. There is only pleasing and informative storytelling... and jokes... and impressions (yeah, impressions). Feinstein is funny, and he is fun, and he is jovial, and he is joking. He is everything you could ever want in an evening of entertainment, and he is more because he takes out a couple of chances to sit at the piano and play while singing (a rare lyric applied to the heartbreaking "Where Do You Start" relieved the composition of all the heartbreak, at long last), and he is so visibly appreciative of the artistry of his fellow musicians, who are simply the best a person could hope to be onstage with. The solos were insane, especially from Mr. Firth, who is a treasure to the industry, and no mistake.

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets

Wednesday night's Feinstein/Sinatra/Carnegie concert is one of the nicest nights out this writer has had this season because, a fan of Feinstein's since the Eighties, his catalogue, his canon, his oeuvre, has become like threads in the fabric of my life. His music has become like muscle fibers that are there, that do the work, that support the daily activities, but that you don't really take advantage of, so much as take them for granted. And even though I greatly enjoyed Michael's Judy Garland tribute show last December, this night of Sinatra songs has rekindled in this longtime fan a renewed devotion to the man, an invigorated interest in his work, and I can definitely say that I will not miss a single Michael Feinstein show in the future. He is simply magnificent, simply the best, and his version of "One For My Baby" has, as of two days ago, jumped to the top of my list of favorites... ahead of Mr. Sinatra's. In a night of superlative performances like a stunning "I'll Be Around," and lush "The Second Time Around" and an epic "Frank Sinatra Medley," it was a real highlight, and it's all because of Michael Feinstein, one of the truly great entertainers.

Find great shows and concerts to see on the Carnegie Hall website HERE.

THIS is the Michael Feinstein website.

Fadi Kheir's photos are courtesy of Carnegie Hall

Review: STANDARD TIME WITH MICHAEL FEINSTEIN at Carnegie Hall Is As Good As It Gets


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