by Sandi Durell
From a brilliantly devised title – “I Wish I Were 90 Again!” – to a well-constructed show, this remarkable chanteuse never ceases to amaze, thrill and bring her heart and soul to her loving audiences. Marilyn Maye could never be younger in spirit, vocal finesse, showing her love to all who are lucky enough to be in her presence. That’s just the way it is!
At times, she was just a little unsure on opening night April 3 at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Why? Because she undertook learning 12 new arrangements along with adding songs that weren’t part of her repertoire. No matter. . . she pulled it off with aplomb, making us laugh and smile when she missed a word here and there. She’s the only singer I know whose screw ups are fun and palpable! In fact, it’s those moments that we relish, those moments of how real and down to earth this now almost 91 year old marvel (birthday is April 10) is, as she regales with some of the favorites – – – “It’s Today” (Jerry Herman) and a rousing “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” (Andre Previn, Dory Previn) which she nails from ballad to swing. Always comfy, cozy with her jazz waltzes, the Bacharach/David, Gallager/Henson, Scott/Pelzer, a finely tuned medley expresses all the love she could conjure “What The World Needs Now/Let There Be Love/ It’s Love.”
It’s all about her inflections as she communicates the stories – powerfully and with humor as needed. Her rendition of “Too Late Now” (Burton Lane, Alan Jay Lerner) and “Everytime” (Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane) are filled with pathos. Adding “Bluesette” to her Blue Medley created a new dimension. How she spit out all those lyrics at such rapid speed to “I’m A Woman” (Leiber & Stoller) is mystifying.
And so it was, a BIG love fest with the Numero Uno lady of jazz interpretation. As many times as I’ve seen and written about Marilyn Maye and searched for definitives and adjectives, I’m still at a loss to find the superlatives that define this one-of-a-kind songstress. God only knows what she’ll come up with for next year’s birthday!!
With her able-bodied, amazing pianist/musical director Tedd Firth, along with Tom Hubbard on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums, the notable arrangements and musicianship would make anyone sit up and take notice.
Ms. Maye continues at 54 Below on April 4,5, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 13 at 7 pm.
Photos/Video: Magda Katz