Kevin on Kabaret :: June’s tunes

by Kevin Scott Hall

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday June 5, 2011

"If a June night could talk, it would probably boast that it invented romance."
--Bern Williams


This time of year, as thoughts turn to summer adventures, in the world of cabaret and piano bars, I always think of tall, slender, and forever-tanned Dan Daly, who has been playing piano and leading singalongs regularly at Cherry Grove, Fire Island hotspots for eleven seasons now.

"I love the beach," Dan told me. "The nice thing about Fire Island is that people are in a festive mood, so working there is kind of a slam dunk: people are going to be entertained."

Music career by accident

Incredibly, Daly, a native of Nassau County, kind of backed into a music career-which also involves regular play in New York bars and restaurants, songwriting and recording, music directing for various singers, playing on cruise ships, and also music directing for the summer musicals at the Cherry Grove Community Center.

"When I was sixteen, I was trying to get a football scholarship but I got injured," Daly said. "I was so depressed, I would walk through the hallways after school. I saw the piano and I sat down for three to four hours every day and taught myself how to play."

Daly gave up the piano again until he was about 25 and living in Florida. He took it up again on a lark and one night he was out with friends at a Fort Lauderdale club and they urged him to play something. "I was twenty-nine and had never played in public before, but that night the club hired me!"

A few years later, while visiting his ill mother at Sloan-Kettering in New York, he stopped in at The Townhouse and played a few tunes. He was immediately offered a job at the legendary bar. "That offer sparked an idea for me to come back to New York," he said.

And he’s been here ever since, entertaining locals and tourists and gaining a faithful following with his mastery of jazz, show tunes and pop. Add to that his welcoming spirit and goofy sense of humor, and you have a night’s entertainment.

Daly has played at many clubs that have come and gone over the years in Cherry Grove-Cherry’s, The Tide, Rachel’s and Jumping Jack’s, to name a few-and last summer met Neil Sedaka, who sat down at the keys to play a few tunes for the stunned beachgoers.

Catch Dan in Cherry Grove this summer at JJ’s on the Ocean and at Top of the Bay, and in the city, late night Sundays at Marie’s Crisis . . .

Sing out for marriage equality

It’s Pride Month and there are several worthy benefits to attend.

Middle Collegiate Church (Second Avenue & 7th Street) is hosting a Marriage Equality Concert on Friday, June 10th, at 7 pm. This is quite an issue for a church to sponsor and, in fact, Middle got into some hot water a few years back from their denomination, Reformed Church of America, for issuing a proclamation in support of gay marriage.

Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis, has said, "At Middle Church, advocating for justice and equality for all people is central to our faith. We believe that the denial of marriage equality hurts all families, straight and gay. We call on the New York State Legislature and the Governor to enact a law providing equal access to marriage for all people."

And here’s some of the talent: Tituss Burgess, known both for his work on Broadway ("The Little Mermaid," "Guys and Dolls") and nightclubs, as well as a role on "30 Rock;" neo-soul and OUTMusic award winner Nhojj; husband and wife duo Barnaby Bright (Nathan and Becky Bliss), who just won a 2010 New York Songwriters’ Circle Award and have been flirting with a major record deal; and GLAAD Media Award nominee Dionne McClain-Freeney.

As if that’s not enough, there’s a rumor that a major artist-trust me on this-may make an appearance. This person prefers to remain anonymous, but the rumor alone is enough to make me run to Middle that night. And get this: FREE! Make a donation, friends . . .

Judy x 1000

Downtown’s Justin Sayre hosts Night of a Thousand Judys at Joe’s Pub on June 13th at 7:00. He has also lined up quite a stellar guest list: the outrageous Jackie Hoffman, the tantalizing Kim Smith, offbeat and fabulous Lady Rizo, LogoTV’s Cole Escola, and the duo Summer & Eve. This madcap variety show is to benefit The Ali Forney Center . .

Ty’s back

B.B. King’s has pulled out all the diva stops for the month of June. Could it be the blues club wants its share of the gay audience too? Listen to this: Diane Schuur on the 15th, Chaka Khan on the 16th, Roberta Flack on the 24th and Nancy Wilson on the 25th! Lord have mercy, let’s get Dionne and Patti and Gladys and Whitney and make the month complete. We ain’t gonna have any money left by July at this rate . . .

Meanwhile, Ty Stephens brings his band Souljaazz to Birdland on June 27th. Stephens is a former Broadway baby, having been in "Sophisticated Ladies," but he’s been touring all over the world with his band for quite a few years, and they’ve released three recordings.

Ty Stephens & Souljaazz have opened for Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Diana Ross, Carlos Santana, Diana Ross, Alicia Keys . . . with that kind of pedigree, I think it’s time the band got headliner status. Get thee over to Birdland and give them some support!

Kev’s Faves

June truly is bustin’ out all over. Here are a few more:

Kev’s Faves: Dorothy Parker is one of my favorite wits and over at the Metropolitan Room on June 14th, Sandy Bainum sings Dorothy Parker. That ought to be something . . . SNL alum Ana Gasteyer brings her act to Feinstein’s on the 13th and 27th . . . 19-year-old sensation Nicolas King does a four-night stint at Don’t Tell Mama in midtown, the 4th through the 7th . . . and big-voiced Becca Southworth gives her pipes a workout at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on the 7th.

That’s cabaret for you: something for everyone, and then some. I’ll be back here next month. Until then, I’ll be at the clubs . . . 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).