by Alix Cohen
The second show in Michael Feinstein’s Jazz & Popular Song Series for Jazz at Lincoln Center was both more swing than blues and less illuminating than that to which we’re accustomed. At the top of the evening, we’re told that the blues are richer and more nuanced than stereotypes in a cotton field, that they are, in fact, “a sophisticated musical expression of the American experience.” That’s, alas, about it- no explained examples of genre type, no history or anecdotes. Still, the music was good.
Feinstein followed his brief rendition of Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here With You” with a couple of amuses bouches- a snippet of Jerry Lieber /Mike Stoller’s jaunty “I’ve Got Them Feeling Too Good Today Blues” and a 1928 Ira Gershwin/Gus Kahn number written for Showgirl. It’s always a pleasure to hear the artist solo at the keyboard.
Special guest Storm Large’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” (Brian Johnson/ Angus McKinnon Young/Malcolm Mitchell Young) arrived with power and grit. The vocalist dipped, undulated, and rotated, her left arm living large. “We like to call that three chords and the truth.” Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” was borne on waves of dark brass. The lady has an R & B voice which can detonate or urge. During a duet of “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) with Feinstein, and later participating in a group number, however, the vocalist upstaged like nobody I’ve ever seen.
Special guest Jamie Davis gave us 1944’s shadowy “Round Midnight” (Thelonious Monk), replete with sweet and soulful, muted trumpet solo. “Alright, Ok, You Win” (Sid Wyche / Mayme Watts) showcased phrasing as natural as breathing, dropped Gs, and a little classy movement. High hat trombone and cool sax were featured. “Jamie is the only singer I know who doesn’t warm up, he warms down,” quipped our host referring to the singer’s cottony, low tone.
Special guest Mary Stallings performed two from The Count Basie Catalogue: Bobby Troup’s jazz stroll “Baby, Baby All the Time” and “Muddy Waters” (Al Hibler/Mack David). Stallings barely moved, yet melody was kneaded (like bread) while lyrics swung their hips, raising an eyebrow. A tenor sax juked and swung. “I’m Just A Lucky So and So” (Duke Ellington/ Mack David), in duet with Feinstein, paired the lady’s jazz approach with Feinstein’s croon, an interesting conversation.
Feinstein shared the eclectic, bouncy “Show Me The Way To Get Out Of The World,” which is, he observed,” infused with cold war attitude.” And, go figure, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire.” Though he actually rose from the piano seat ‘in transit’ and appeared to be having a good time, the number couldn’t be less suited to this performer.
The evening closed with a cast version of “Everyday I Get the Blues”: Everyday, everyday I have
the blues/Everyday, everyday I have the blues/ Well, you see me worried, baby/Because it’s you I
hate to lose…
An oddly mixed vocal evening with, as always, top notch musicianship by the band.
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz and Popular Song series continues June 8 & 9
Michael Feinstein: Sing Me a Swing Song in The Appel Room at Time Warner Center
Photos: Frank Stewart