A joyous musical trio, making extraordinary music



By Joel Benjamin



Sharon Montgomery, Sally Mayes and Billy Stritch make such an organically joyous trio that we can only hope that the Return of Montgomery, Mayes and Stritch turns into a regular gig and not just a one off  “event.”  You have to marvel at the extraordinary musical and personal camaraderie of these three.  Their style is cool, tightly harmonized jazz with a feeling of improvisation, belied by the extraordinarily complex sounds they make.


A richly harmonized “I Get a Kick Out of You” (Cole Porter) started the sophisticated evening of artistic and autobiographical reminiscences.   They met at university in Houston and gravitated towards each other.  Two songs from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes poked musical fun at their lack of sophistication.  It was Mabel Mercer, among others, who enlightened them.  Sharon sang “Carry Me Back to Old Manhattan,” a Mercer standard (Douglas Cross/George Cory/Peter Windsor), sweetly mimicking Mercer’s rolled R’s.


Style and substance met in Sally and Billy’s “My Funny Valentine” (Rodgers/Hart).  Pure virtuoso style showed up in a medley that included Khatchaturian’s “Saber Dance” to which many, many words were added, complete with witty operatic interludes.


Melancholy was touched on in Sharon’s sweetly sad tribute to Amanda McBroom’s, “Ship in a Bottle,” about being left on a shelf and watching life go by.  Billie’s clear-eyed version of the Carolyn Leigh/Cy Coleman standard “It Amazes Me” was equally affecting.  Contrasting this mood was Sally’s up-tempo “In the Name of Love” by her teenage crush Kenny Rankin.


A nod towards Fifty’s girl groups was their next to last number, Stritch’s own “Does He Love You,” which immediately brought images of smoky jazz rooms of the past.  Their encore was a scat-filled “Opus Number One” (Sy Oliver/Sid Garris) filled to the brim with mind-boggling harmonies and playful music making.


The Return of Montgomery, Mayes & Stritch (September 23, 2013)


315 West 44th St. (between 8th & 9th Aves.)

New York, NY

Tickets & Information for Upcoming Birdland shows:  www.birdlandjazz.com or 212-581-3080