By Alix Cohen . . .
Shhhh there’s a new jazz club in town. Internationally known, Brazilian Fasano Restaurants have given birth to the sophisticated Baretto one flight up from its New York dining room. Opening the venue is jazz artist Hilary Kole whose creamy voice, refined presence, appreciation and mastery of songbook material does justice to surroundings.
Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” arrives as easy swing. Scat slip/slides with focus and skill. Eyes closed, head nodding (in agreement), hand outstretched as if waiting for a fret, Kole imbues the song with warmth. “I Only Have Eyes for You” (Harry Warren/Al Dubin) sails on Mark Birnbaum’s meandering piano, Paul Gill’s bowed bass. Phrasing seems at first improvised, but is actually well set.
Tonight’s first audience member request (she takes these) is a samba interpretation of Porter’s “Night and Day.” The word “daaaay” arcs. Kole’s shoulders rise and fall. Octaves undulate like sensual hips. The second is a finger-snapping, quick stepping “Lullaby of Birdland” (George Shearing/ George David Weiss.) Tempo and emphasis is horn-like. There’s musical conversation with the bass.
Louis Jordan’s “Knock Me a Kiss” is appealingly suggestive: I like cake/And no mistake/But baby, if you insist/I’ll cut out cake/Just for your sake…” Bass sashays. Lyrics spool out like ribbons. Ever the lady, Kole shifts just a little with rhythm. At 8 or 9 years old, the artist’s vocal coach father taught her “Good Morning Heartache.” (Irene Higginbotham/Ervin Drake/ Dan Fisher). “What was he thinking?!” she muses aloud. It emerges soulful, blue, occasionally halting. Piano is ‘hurry-up-and-wait’ employing clusters of keys. Scat is round-edged. “My back up tune was “Lover Man”. I’m not making this up!” She grins.
Persuasive yearning colors “In My Solitude” (Duke Ellington/Eddie DeLang/ Irving Mills). Kole makes ballads sound candid. “While We’re Young” (Alec Wilder/Morty Palitz/Bill Engvick) is deliciously waltzy and a highlight. Piano twirls and leaps. Seamless vocal transitions are heady. A long note you can wrap yourself in gathers the room.
Hilary Kole is a savory performer. The word comes from Latin meaning “to taste the salt” or “to season.” She radiates charm, but is also an exacting craftsman. The vocalist is a pleasure.
Baretto is an elegant, rectangular room with decorative bar at one end. (Baretto São Paulo was named the “World’s #1 Bar by Wallpaper Magazine.) Discrete lighting glows. Banquettes and table set-ups offer comfortable seating. A slightly raised stage stands at the center, a mirror at its back (the keyboard can be seen!) There’s an extensive drinks menu as well as menu items such as panini, croquettes, pasta and salads. Staff is quiet, attentive, and accommodating.
Though one is at the mercy of a crowd who may talk through performance, Baretto’s state of the art sound system and acoustics are excellent. Music manages to rise above without being loud. A “set” is not a show. There will be several in the course of your visit, with pauses between. The venue hosts jazz or bossa artists weekend evenings. You’ll be lead upstairs, through a narrow, seemingly secret doorway.
Hilary Kole https://hilarykole.com/
Piano- Mark Birnbaum, Bass – Paul Gill
Baretto at Fasano – 480 Park Avenue – Entrance on 49th between Park and Madison Avenues https://www.fasanorestaurantny.com/