Jazz at Lincoln Center “Blue Eyed Saloon Songs” featuring Michael Feinstein with guest artists” Madelyn Baillio, Kate Davis, Jane Monheit & Denzal Sinclaire and 17 piece “Sinatra Centennial Orchestra” led by Tedd Firth

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by Linda Amiel Burns

Michael Feinstein’s Jazz and Popular Song series at Lincoln Center celebrates the life and legacy of vocal legend Frank Sinatra.

Michael Feinstein is the Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz and Popular Song series. This year he created three programs dedicated to the life and legacy of the legendary vocalist Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). The second concert in the series was held on May 13 & 14 at the beautiful Appel Room with a view of Central Park. This show was entitled, Blue Eyed Saloon Songs, as Frank Sinatra often referred to himself as a “saloon singer” and coined the phrase “Saloon Songs” – a term of songs about unrequited love, sadness and heartbreak. Nobody else could sing a story that conveyed vulnerability, tenderness and authenticity like this great artist.

Michael opened the show with a dazzling arrangement of “I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues” and introduced the incredible 17-piece “Sinatra Centennial Orchestra” led by music director Ted Firth. He then sat down at the piano to sing Alec Wilder’s “I’ll Be Around” and these two songs set the tone for the evening of songs meant to be experienced, “with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other.” Michael was a charming host and his expertise and love of this music was evident. He joked with the audience and quoted Sinatra as saying, “If I had as many love affairs as the media has given me credit for, I would now be speaking to you from a jar at the Harvard Medical School.” In the Program Notes, Will Friedwald says, “In reality, the women that he had loved and lost were fully as numerous as the songs that he sang.”

There were four “guest artists” Madelyn Baillio, Kate Davis, Jane Monheit & Denzal Sinclaire. Kate, who sings on Sunday nights at Bemelman’s Bar, sang two Sinatra classics in her unique style, “Lover, Come Back To Me” and “In The Wee Small Hours.”

Denzel, a jazz singer from Toronto, was terrific on “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and “Learning The Blues.” Madelyn Baillio, the 18 year old the winner of Michael’s Great American Songbook Foundation Competition, has a remarkable voice and performed an excellent rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness.” Renowned Jazz vocalist Jane Monheit scored with Cole Porter’s song of yearning, “In The Still of the Night” and the very moving “Here’s That Rainy Day.”

Michael’s singing continues to get better and better, if that is at all possible. His version of “It’s all Right With Me” from Can-Can was masterful. Michael sat on a stool and sang and acted out the ultimate “saloon song” “One For My Baby.” One of the highlights of the evening was a brilliant medley that he put together of “When You’re Lover Has Gone” with “The Man That Got Away.” He closed a big band arrangement of Arlen & Mercer’s powerful standard, “Come Rain or Come Shine” that was thrilling. The cast joined Michael on stage to sing “Blues In The Night” – a perfect way to end this terrific evening of music and song.

On June 10th & 11th “Swinging Songs for Lovers” – the final installment of the series will feature Freddy Cole, Julia Godwin and other special guests.

Don’t miss Sinatra: An American Icon now through Sept. 4, 2015 at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts, at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza.