Broadway Composer Lets Loose with His Friends





By Joel Benjamin


David Yazbek’s set at Feinstein’s/54 Below was like a jam session—totally entertaining, yet edgy. It had the easygoing feel of improvisation, the kind of feeling only the best professional musicians can communicate. Yazbek, his large band and two guest artists, gave his songs a workout while also having the time of their lives.


The range of songs was incredible, most from shows he has written. He started with a bang—“Madrid Is My Mama,” full of sexual imagery and a samba beat, a tribute to that city. The sardonic “I Don’t Believe It” had a touch of Klezmer while “Never Get Out of This” (written with Erik DellaPenna who also played guitar in the band) was blasé and cool as it explored mortality with a jazz beat. Also co-written with Mr. DellaPenna was the surreal, but bouncy “Hi Ho.”


“Beautiful Place,” a big, boisterous freight train of a song about New York City in the summer, was made famous by a Ska band, Urban Blight,


Each number featured incredible solo riffs such as Michael Boschen’s long trombone turn in “Sandy Koufax,” a song featuring the line, “Is it good for baseball? Is it good for the Jews?” clearly a tongue-in-cheek take on the subject matter. Percussionist Javier Diaz also had a good deal of solo moments.


Although Yazbek was his own best interpreter, his two guest artists were superb. Stephen Hill, a longtime friend of the composer, traded barbs and stories before singing “Schmuck in a Vacuum,” filled with bizarre and profane animal imagery all sung to a cha-cha beat. He was charming and sexy.


Patrick Wilson, stage and film star, appeared in Yazbek’s The Full Monty. From that show he sang a languid, lovely “Breeze Off the River.” Wilson also sang the finger-snapper, “The Cowgirls Go to Santo Domingo,” the strange imaginings of a tired traveling salesman which quoted bits of a song from Wizard of Oz in its arrangement. Wilson was his usual charismatic self.


Yazbek went rock and roll with “Montgomery Alabama” which was colorful, if not exactly complimentary to that southern town.


The rest of Yazbek’s extraordinary band consisted of Dean Sharenow (drums), Alexandra Eckhart (bass), Tony Orbach (sax) and Paul Vercesi (sax) all of whom were totally in synch with Yazbek’s music and his sense of humor.



David Yazbek (May 4, 2016)

Feinstein’s/54 Below

254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue

New York, NY

For reservations and information, call 646-476-3551 or visit www.Feinstein’s/