The Cabaret Chronicles: Tish Oney, Bill Zeffiro, and More!
Happy Saturday! Wow, where did July go? It's hard to believe tomorrow is August 1st, isn't it? Well, July has been a great month of entertainment in NYC and this past week was no exception. I kicked things off by going to Feinstein's at Loews Regency to see Tish Oney in The Peggy Lee Songbook. Although there are many Peggy Lee tributes performed, this one differs in two ways: first, it is the only tribute endorsed by the Peggy Lee Foundation, and second, this particular project celebrates the songwriting talents of Peggy Lee. Many of the songs, like "It's a Good Day," "He's a Tramp," "I Don't Know Enough About You," and "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" were familiar, but there were also some little-known gems that were dusted off, polished, and beautifully performed. Having received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in the field of Jazz Studies at The University of Southern California's renowned Thornton School of Music, Dr. Oney not only headlines this show, but she is also the artistic director and musical arranger. In this show, Lee's songs are respectfully and lovingly given more contemporary, jazzy arrangements, and delivered in Oney's crystal clear, smooth, warm voice. One of the songs, "Burn It Slow," was Oney's own musical composition, having set an unpublished poem by Lee to music, with the permission of the Peggy Lee Estate. Joined for this performance by Grammy Award-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe, Dr. Oney put on a truly outstanding show - entertaining, well-structured, well-researched, and extremely well-executed! What more could one ask for? Hmm...perhaps a stunning gown? Well, she had that covered, too - a gorgeous, strapless, sage-colored gown, covered in sparkly sequins and accessorized with a perfectly matched scarf. Yes, indeed - a class act, all the way around!
Monday night, it was off to Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland. This Monday night open mic is one of the hottest destinations in Manhattan, and it's easy to see why! Host Jim Caruso keeps things hopping, the Cast Party Symphony Orchestra (Tedd Firth on piano, Steve Doyle on bass, and Dustin Jensen on drums) is outstanding, and the lineup of talent is amazing! This week was no exception, and we were treated to all kinds of terrific performances. Forbidden Broadway veteran Christina Bianco did a swingin' "The Song Is You," cabaret favorite Julie Reyburn, accompanied by her musical director Mark Janas on piano, delivered a terrific, Kander & Ebb tinged "Frankie and Johnny," multi-award-winning songwriter Victoria Shaw performed a beautiful original song called "Never Alone," and jazz vocalist Hilary Kole brought the house down with her "Love You Madly." Yet another terrifically entertaining evening on 44th Street!
Tuesday, I headed over to La Mediterranee French Bistro. Tucked away on 2nd Avenue, this restaurant is a throwback to another era, when one could wander into nearly any restaurant and hear music any night of the week. Hats off to owner Ernesto Morel for keeping this tradition alive! On Tuesday evening, it was singer/pianist Bill Zeffiro providing the musical entertainment, and he kept the crowd entertained with standards like "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," and "Nobody Else But Me." A number of talented vocalists also dropped in, and Mr. Zeffiro happily passed the mic over to allow them to share the spotlight. Lindsey Holloway, Elli Fordyce, and Marissa Mulder all delighted the crowd with their selections, and did their part to make an already entertaining evening that much better!
Thursday night, I headed over to Comix on 14th Street to do a guest spot in comedian Danny Leary's new show, [untitled] Danny Leary Variety Extravaganza. Danny has emceed a number of variety shows in the past, most notably the long-running On The Rocks at The Duplex, but with this new show, he really aims to take the variety show to another level. A big opening Dolly Parton medley, a few hilarious skits, a re-enactment of a scene from Dynasty, and a stand-up comedian all contributed to a well-planned, highly entertaining debut, and it appears that we can expect more of the same in the future! The show will be a monthly fixture in the beautiful Copper Room at Comix, and I'm really looking forward to next month's installment!
Friday evening, I wound down my week by going to DJ Dan Fortune's Lush & Lively at the Time Out NY Lounge (underground at the New World Stages complex). This monthly event (held the last Friday of every month), is like taking a trip back in time to a swingin' 60s cocktail party. Dan digs up all kinds of deliciously entertaining obscurities - rare bossa nova versions of pop and Broadway tunes, original recordings from that era, jazz classic, and even a few disco covers of classic pop tunes and standards! It's a mellow, welcoming vibe, and the perfect place to unwind! Some of my favorites from this week's L&L? A swinging "Matchmaker" covered by Eydie Gormet, Woody Herman's jazzed-up "I Feel Pretty," and Connie Francis' disco recording of "Where The Boys Are!"
That's about all I managed to squeeze in this week, but check back next week for a new article!
Where I'm Going This Week...
Monday, August 2nd: Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland. Hosted by Jim Caruso, this weekly open mic is THE place to be on Monday nights! It runs from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m., but if you'd like to perform, be sure to arrive early to sign up!
Thursday, August 5th: Kat Gang at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. This up-and-coming jazz vocalist has been making waves with her Oak Room debut, and I'm excited to be able to catch her show! Show begins at 8:30 p.m.
Friday, August 6th: MetroJam at The Metropolitan Room. I have the honor of hosting the Metropolitan Room's monthly open mic, and am looking forward to kicking off August with a bang! Backed by a terrific trio (John DiPinto on piano, Saadi Zain on bass and Bobby Sher on drums), this is sure to be a great start to the weekend. MetroJam runs from 10 p.m. - midnight.
Pictured: Tish Oney