By Sandi Durell
In a very personal evening of song and conversation, the much loved and revered Marilyn Maye, known as the ageless dynamo, once again, reminded her adoring audience why she is at the top of her craft. It’s not only about how or what you sing, but how you tell the story – the truth! I would venture to say there wasn’t one person in the very crowded Feinstein’s/54 Below nightclub whose heart and soul went untouched by this lady throughout the evening of magnificent stories told through song.
Just as she’s “(I’ve) Grown Accustomed to Your Face,” we, too, have grown accustomed to being wrapped in the warmth and embrace of this generous all-inclusive performer. She is jazz personified so when, as a young singer already with her own jazz radio show, the new owners of the station asked if she could do country music instead, well, she tried a little country-city with “Cheatin’ Heart” but, no, it wasn’t going to work for this swingin’ powerhouse. Indeed, she left and went to Florida to sing, where she met her first husband – a match made in heaven? He drank, she took her real love on the road and they divorced. But the same scenario repeated another two times – the second marriage producing her lovely daughter Christy, a busy voice teacher who works with kids in their hometown of Kansas City. The Love Medley (“My Romance/Why Did I Choose You/That’s All”) surely had its wry edges!
The lady is risqué! Yes, there’s no doubt that she’s a sassy, sexy woman with an edge. Take that Fats Waller Medley, as an example. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down” (a lot of kisses on my bottom . . .), “Ain’t Misbehavin’ (filled with innuendo) and the piece de resistance – “Honeysuckle Rose,” well, that honey drips all right ! My, my how the audience does love her.
She also had her fair share of Broadway show stories and starring roles in regional performances of “Hello Dolly,” for example. And tales of how Steve Allen offered up her big chance with that one phone call her mother answered, asking Marilyn “do you know a Steve Allen?” The rest is history; multi-recordings for RCA and television appearances, with the biggest and best, are well known facts as she delights in the telling, making you feel as if you were there.
Ms. Maye enraptured everyone with “If He Walked Into My Life” and “I’m Still Here.” And the mantra of her life is all wrapped up in Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today” – a constant reminder for all of us.
Needless to say, the youthful man at the piano, on whom she’s relied for over 25 years, is the one and only Billy Stritch, along with the ever popular Tom Hubbard on bass and drummer Ray Marchica. What a group!
Don’t walk . . . run to Feinstein’s/54 Below to be a part of this jazz icon’s Highlights. Immerse yourself in Marilyn Maye performing May 12 – 14, 17 – 20, all shows at 7 pm. You’ll thank me for the tip!
254 West 54 St. (cellar) NYC
Photos: Nella Vera