Shows for sophisticates who like jazz and wit
Cabaret and musical revues in New York
By Lucy Komisar
The best cabaret singers who pass through New York have it on their permanent itinerary, so don't worry if the show they just headlined has closed: they will be back. Now's the time to remember their names and go the next time they're in town. There's nothing like an intimate evening with a glass of wine and a top-class musician or singer and combo.
Here are some that I've seen recently, as well as a heads-up for a few appearing this summer:
Le Jazz Au Bar is a smashing new cabaret it just opened in February that not only features the best in sound, but is a lush venue that reminds one of a British country house. The corners are niches with couches, bookcases, and elegant paintings hung on pine paneled walls. The main room has small tables that are far enough apart to allow private conversations and, behind on a low rise, there are dining booths and a bar.
Pianist James Williams was performing with a combo the evening I went in March. It was his birthday, and the celebratory bash featured the mellifluous vocalist Vanessa Rubin, the astonishing young vibist Stefon Harris, and the accomplished bassist Ray Drummond. Williams generously gave each plenty of spotlight. It was the audience that got the present!
Once a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Williams' playing is tuneful, elegant, rich, rhythmic: a typical number is "Thermo" by Freddie Hubbard, the first piece on one of Williams' "Jazz Dialogues" CDs, which I picked up after the show.
Linda Glick will sing selections by Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Jacques Brel, Randy Newman and others in her show "Don't Ask the Lady" at The Duplex in Greenwich Village. This is one of the most popular Village night spots, with serious ople-watching.shows upstairs, funky vocalists downstairs, and a sidewalk café for warm-weather people watching.
At Upstairs at Studio 54, shows are presented as a combination cabaret-revue. You sit at chairs with small tables on which you can place drinks and snacks while watching staged musical numbers. I went there for "Listen to My Heart: The Songs of David Friedman."
Friedman's sound is more modern folk than Broadway, slightly atonal, and the lyrics are arch and humorous. A highlight, of course, was Alix Korey, loud, brassy, and ironically funny, in "I'm Not My Mother" and "If I Were Pretty." I also liked the country-western styled "My White Knight" with a powerful presentation by Allison Briner. The show has closed, but the singers will be back, on this stage or another, and, you can be sure, so will songs by David Friedman.
The York Theatre Company is the city's only venue devoted to musical plays and revues. One of their very charming presentations was "Porterphiles." When someone's as good as Cole Porter, even his "out-takes" are delicious. And thanks to Porter authority Judy Brown editor of "Cole Porter Rediscovered" and the musical director and pianist of this show for finding some thirty unpublished Porter songs that add up to great, sophisticated fun.
With a painted New York tenement backdrop and a bunch of file cabinets, Lynne Halliday's honeyed voice, Ricky Russell's warm tenor and Stephen Zinnato's smooth baritone brought Porter's social satires to life: the perils of writing a play, "Saltaire" (a chic end to a Fire Island weekend affair), and the dry, witty "The Extra Man." They do a brilliantly funny tequila drunk scene.
The show ran this past winter. If you're lucky, you'll get to see the songs and the singers again. Reprise, please!