Entertainment » Music

Kevin on Kabaret :: August, 2009

by Kevin Scott Hall
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 3, 2009

It has been the general perception that the city slows down in August. Not so in the clubs, which continue to boast an array of impressive talent even in this "slow" month. Why go to the shore, when you can take in the air-conditioned comfort of a dark room and see a legend or legend-to-be, up close and personal?


Tuesdays with Annie

One legend who has been holding court nearly every Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Room since it opened over three years ago, is jazz singer Annie Ross, formerly of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, a trio that wowed the jazz world from the late ’50s until the mid-’60s. Ross is also a film and stage actress, a songwriter (most notably, the standard "Twisted"), and solo recording artist.

We owe it to ourselves to see these greats while they are still with us (although in her song "Music is Forever", Ross wistfully reminds us that the great musicians are always with us). Coming of age before rock, Ross started singing when Great American Songbook was at its peak and the lyric was of primary importance for the singer.

In fact, Ross told me, "I don’t understand the words they are singing today; enunciation has gone the way of the dinosaur."

Asked what keeps her going, she said, "I love it, and I have a great group of musicians."

Having seen her recently, I must agree: her quartet is about the most accomplished I’ve ever heard on the nightclub stage. Although known as a jazz singer and inventor of the vocalese style, Ross, in describing what she does, said simply, "I tell the truth."

It’s a thrill to watch her emote on classics like "Bewitched," "Watch What Happens," and "Travelin’ Light," among others, before she revs it up for a finale of "One Meatball." And yet I had the most pleasure just watching her while her musicians took solo turns. She has the joy of music in her bones-no easy feat for anyone who has spent more than a minute in the music business, let alone a lifetime. Her ecstasy is palpable.

If the bombast of an "American Idol" contestant is your thing, no need to visit. But if you want to see someone with soul who imbues every word of a song with meaning, catch Annie Ross at the Metropolitan Room on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. throughout August.

That other Annie, as in the original Broadway "Annie," Andrea McArdle, also stops by the Metropolitan Room for several dates starting August 6. (For a performance schedule, visit the Metropolitan Room website.)


Duelling shows

And come August 17, where is a red-blooded gay Gothamite guy to go? Three great shows in one night! On one side of town, Broadway’s triple-threat sex symbol Nick Adams brings his show to Birdland. On the same night, downtown at Joe’s Pub, handsome Matt Doyle (of Broadway’s "Spring Awakenings" and the upcoming "Bye Bye Birdie") presents his first solo show. And over at the Laurie Beechman, Eadie Scott presents her one-woman tribute to Dorothy Parker-perhaps the original fag hag.

When I profiled Adams last winter, he told me he felt his singing came first. Thus far in his Broadway career ("A Chorus Line," "Guys and Dolls") his dancing has been most prominently featured. At last, his solo debut is his chance to blow his own horn . . . although we wouldn’t mind if he struts his stuff a little too.

As for Doyle, he told me, "I’ve always wanted to do a solo concert but never dreamed my first one would be at Joe’s Pub." (I guess having a Broadway show doesn’t hurt, Matt!).

He is excited to show a side of himself that most people have not seen before. "I doubt that anyone would have expected me to do a night of soul covers, but that is the music that really shaped my voice growing up," Doyle said, citing influences such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Stevie Wonder. He will also do a couple songs from past projects and bring up guest singers Lilli Cooper and Wesley Taylor.

"I’ll be singing songs that have greatly inspired me," he enthused. "It is really satisfying to do something that is completely my own."

The good news for Matt is that his August 17 concert is sold out. The good news for his fans is that he’s added another night at Joe’s Pub: August 27. Visit the Joe’s Pub website for more details!


Dorothy Parker revisited

Eadie Scott’s show is entitled "Wished on the Moon." In it, she plays a fictitious woman searching for love-using the poetry, monologues and lyrics of Dorothy Parker, as well as songs by some classic and contemporary songwriters.

"The original idea came to me like a light bulb," Scott told me. She was in a bookstore in Provincetown back in 1993 and saw "The Complete Works of Dorothy Parker" and wondered if her writings had ever been used in a cabaret act. As she started doing research, she learned that that year was Parker’s 100th birthday-and a show was born, winning an award and garnering her an interview in The Daily News.

Scott says she decided to bring back the show now because of "the timeless quality of her humor and the universal issues she shares."

Parker is remembered for her outrageous one-liners, drama reviews and short stories, as well as being a playwright, poet and screenwriter and famed member of the Algonquin Round Table.

"Dorothy actually married two gay men," Scott relates. "Her sometimes dark, yet always witty and caustic view of the world is very similar to the gay mentality . . . and she also loved the drink!"

If all goes well on the 17th, Scott hopes to bring the show back for a longer run in the fall.

So, folks, there should be nobody sitting at home on the 17th. Make your rezzies now!


Soothing summer evenings

For those in need of a freebie (and who wouldn’t that be?), on August 5 at 6 p.m., head over to Tudor City Greens (Tudor City Place, between 41st & 42nd at Second Avenue) for a free outdoor concert! Hosted by Raissa Katona Bennett, this concert will feature many Broadway and cabaret headliners, including David Brian Colbert, Deb Berman, Sue Matsuki, Tanya Holt, Angela Schultz, Eric Michael Gillett, and Australia’s Variety Performer of the Year, Darren Williams.

Finally, for those of you who are stuck in town but in need of a soothing summer evening . . . check out the new CD by Dean Landew, "Edgartown." It truly evokes summertime in a particular place (in this case, Martha’s Vineyard). It’s a concept album, with songs like "Sweet Noon Rain," "The Sand and the Sea," "August Breeze," and "Ferry in the Mist," but with 14 musicians throughout the disc, it is musically sophisticated . . . perhaps deceptively so, because of its mellow vibe. Perfect music to be wafting through the open window while you relax on the porch with that lemonade or sloe gin fizz.

And that’s the cabaret news for now. I look forward to seeing what the fall season brings to the clubs . . . until then, I’ll see you over cocktails.


Kevin Scott Hall is the author of Off the Charts! (2010, iUniverse) and the memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (2014, Wisdom Moon).


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