Karen Wyman Here and Now!



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Review by Marilyn Lester


With pop-jazz vocalist Karen Wyman, what you see is what you get – and the “get” is good. Wyman’s personality is warm, bubbly and often funny, and she wants you to experience that as much as she wants to sing. Wisely, Wyman starts the set in her upbeat way, effortlessly bringing you right into the fun. Three successive, slightly latinized melodies, “You and the Night and the Music,” “ Night and Day,” and the “Trolley Song” had the audience immediately swinging and tapping their toes.

Softening up that big voice – Wyman has a powerful set of vocal chords – she adjusts the mood to a quiet ode to the Beatles, icons of her youth, with “Here, There and Everywhere,” and “Something.” Eydie Gormé, the immensely popular singer of the 1950s/60s was paid homage with a medley of tunes – well suited to Wyman’s voice – that the late diva made famous in her day, including “Too Close for Comfort” and “Blame It On the Bossa Nova.”

Wyman, within individual songs, in medleys, and the entire set, demonstrated her ability to smartly modulate volume, tone and intensity. This skill, along with her mastery of phrasing, not only provides necessary variety, but allows the listener to attune to an emotional journey, synced to the mood of the music. Plus, establishing a well-thought out rhythm in arrangements, and choice of songs and modulations, establishes a lively, peppy pace from start to finish.

Song choices were varied, from older American Songbook standards, such as “After You’ve Gone” to more modern picks, such as “Where Do You Start.” One number, a vastly overlooked but hauntingly beautiful Leslie Bricusse tune (from “Doctor Doolittle”), “When I Look In Your Eyes,” was sung with great emotional depth. Ever the joker, Wyman announced the song was sung by Dootlittle to a seal. True – but in her hands it’s the number every lover wants to sing to the beloved. Wyman’s emotional depth was also evident in songs such as “A House Is Not a Home,” “Gotta Move,” and “Always.”

Backing up Wyman was a trio of some of the music industry’s best: John Oddo, Musical Director/piano; Jay Leonhart on bass; and drummer Ed Caccavale who also served as Music Coordinator. These musicians, whom Wyman generously acknowledged, serve her well with rich arrangements and artistic sensibility: knowing perfectly when to ebb and flow in intensity to serve the singer and the song. Wyman was also well-served by Director, Russ Weatherford.

For her finale, intense emotion yielded to the big numbers, “ Come Rain Or Come Shine,” and her signature tune, her mega-hit, “Why Can’t I Walk Away.” The latter is a song that is hers and hers alone; its also one that, as she earnestly states, has taken on a much greater meaning for her in the Renaissance of her career. The singing of it tells. The last,and encore number of the evening, was a soft lullaby, “I’ll Be There,” arranged into a valentine for a very admiring audience. If Wyman had arms big enough and long enough she’d be embracing every soul sitting in those seats.

Karen Wyman is an entertainer in the truest sense of the word. At one point, she referred to herself as a “saloon singer.” That she is. She comes from that solid musical ethic of letting the music speak for itself. As her audience well knows (they gave her two standing ovations and weren’t shy about voicing pleasure throughout the set), it’s about the songs – no narrative necessary; and, frankly, that wouldn’t be her style, anyway. Karen Wyman loves to be on stage, and she loves to sing. These things are grandly communicated to her audience. She’s having a barrel of fun up there, and she wants you to have it too.

Karen Wyman: Here and Now, May 26 at 8:30 pm and 10:30 pm

The Iridium, 1650 Broadway (at 51st St.), New York, 212-582-2121, www.theiridium.com