Jane Scheckter Loves Adores Misses Bobby Short (video below)
Review by Marilyn Lester
Unbelievably he’s been gone ten years now, but the much-loved and feted Bobby Short lives on in memory, recordings, and in Jane Scheckter, whose very personal show is a valentine to Short and all who continue to love, adore and miss him.
Bobby Short characterized himself as a “saloon singer.” He was in good company, with the likes of Hugh Shannon, Mabel Mercer, Sylvia Syms and Frank Sinatra. The term is high praise. A saloon singer commands a room in a highly intimate way, establishing a friendliness and special bond with the audience. From her opening number, “Sand in My Shoes,” one of Short’s signature tunes, Scheckter had it nailed. Here is a lady who’s a true saloon singer and swinging jazz performer.
From “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” to “How’s Your Romance,” to “My Romance,” and “Don’t Let It Get You Down,” Scheckter shifts easily from sung to spoken word, personably sharing her discovery and love for Short – which started precociously at age 12. Eventually, she got to meet her idol when he attended her first Short tribute show, “Jane Scheckter Loves Adores Bobby Short,” in 1996. Bobby returned the favor; the clincher was Scheckter’s rendition of “Some Fine Day,” using Short’s exact arrangement, note for note. He charmingly declared it a “valentine to me.”
Intelligently directed by Eric Michael Gillett, the evening unfolded with an easy pacing as Scheckter moved gracefully and confidently through her numbers. As a storyteller – another hallmark of a great saloon singer – Scheckter paired some tunes in clever ways, such as the “all about love” tune, “Street of Dreams,” with its opposite, the cynical “Speaking of Love.” Likewise, “Down With Love,” and “I’m In Love Again” made for a wry pairing.
On “It’s Bad For Me,” Musical Director Tedd Firth got to show his jazz chops at the keys. Along with bass player Jay Leonhart and Peter Grant on percussion, the trio not only had a warm chemistry among themselves, but with Scheckter, who revealed the reason why: this group has been performing together for 15 years. Most of the arrangements (some by Firth) are based on Short’s but aside from “Some Fine Day,” wisely don’t constitute a carbon copy.
Inevitably, singers of a certain age are faced with the reality of maturing vocal chords. Here’s where the saloon singer’s art is really put to the test. Scheckter’s voice is still bright, if not powerful, with a controlled and slight vibrato – and the lady still swings with energy and enthusiasm. On tunes such as “So Near And Yet So Far,” “It’s Bad For Me,” “Is It Always Like This” and “How Can You Forget,” Scheckter’s unique phrasing and modulation made each song hers.
One of Bobby Short’s hallmarks and ultimate gifts for generations to come was his championing of the more obscure, but musically sound, numbers written by the major composers. Fortunately, this is an ethic that Scheckter has taken on board, with tunes such as “This Is What I Call Love,” and “Year After Year.”
Bobby Short left a cache of recordings and his work is well documented in them, and in YouTube videos. Yet, for those who were lucky enough to catch him in person, there’s a certain something that will always linger in the heart and memory. As Scheckter closed her show with “Hooray for Love,” and “Just One Of Those Things,” she evoked the image of that beautiful man in the tuxedo holding his Café Carlyle audience in the palm of his hand.
Jane Scheckter Loves Adores Misses Bobby Short, Thursdays April 2, 9 and 16 at 7 PM
Café Noctambulo at Pangea, 178 Second Ave (12th/11th Streets), 212-995-0900 www.pangeanyc.com
*Video: Sandi Durell