By Marcina Zaccaria
“The Rose,” popularized by Bette Midler, became an iconic song in American culture. The songwriter behind this American pop classic, Amanda McBroom performed on June 5th to a packed audience at Birdland, to celebrate the release of her CD, Voices.
The evening got off to a great start with an energetic rendition of “Old Love,” a song she co-wrote with Musical Director Michele Brourman. McBroom has a calm, sophisticated style. With short red hair, in a black pant suit with a silver scarf, she looks absolutely comfortable in this NYC room. In preparation for this evening of song, McBroom explains that she tidied up her back room, and dusted off the A-Tracks, DAT’s, and cassettes. This charismatic performer is a real storyteller, and her songwriting has a “gift of the gab.”
What not many know is that Amanda McBroom is funny! After quickly sharing a story of her travels to Palm Springs, she sang “Dieter’s Prayer,” which includes her fears about tofu, waffles, and ice cream. It was nice to hear the levity and lament. McBroom explained next that she and songwriter Julie Gold share a common background that “Bette Midler changed her life.” She then launched into Gold’s “South Bound Train.” “South Bound Train” is full of metaphor, and with accompanists Jered Egan on bass and Eli Zoller on guitar, the song is really complete. McBroom is a little stronger in her lower register, and she is able to truly paint a picture with the words.
A traveled artist, with an appreciation of the heartland, she continued with “Reynosa,” written by McBroom for an old friend, Cecil. The up-tempo song has a Spanish feel and a real sense of the past. McBroom sings about her days with tequila, hitting a twangy “r” sound. Her lilt makes her very special. Her strength is in her storytelling, and her interest is in speaking to the audience, and reaching out while giving the stories away. The next tune, “12th of Never,” written by Jerry Livingston and Paul Frances Webster, has almost a church tone. Though McBroom’s specialty is pop music, this song reminds one of church songs like “Morning Has Broken” and “Oh Danny Boy.”
McBroom continued with “Sometimes” before breaking convention with the “healing” song, “Help/ Thanks/ Wow.” It’s a delightful, jazzy tune written by McBroom and Brourman that combines shifts in rhythm. McBroom is a credible jazz performer with this song, and her stylistic departure, particularly at Birdland, was greatly appreciated. McBroom told a quick story about the NYPD, before singing “Yarnell Hill,” and Musical Director Michele Brourman took the microphone to sing “You’re Only Old Once,” a song full of life lessons, and reflections like “forget the affronts” and “life is short.”
McBroom continued with “Voices That Come Through The Wall” before launching into Jacques Brel and Eric Blau’s “Carousel.” She appeared in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris before being cast in Broadway’s Seesaw. It was great to still see her theatricality, and ability to inhabit the song. To make the evening complete, McBroom asked the audience to turn off the TV before launching into the critically acclaimed song, “The Rose.” On the new CD, there is a Guest Vocal Appearance on “The Rose” by Vince Gill, who appears Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. At Birdland, McBroom asked the audience to sing along, and this inclusive experience was absolutely heartwarming. She ended the evening with the light, airy “Hope Floats.”
A CD release never sounded so inspirational. Here’s to Amanda McBroom and her release of Voices, with wishes for many more years of song!
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
Birdland Jazz, 315 West 44 Street, NYC