Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
Sonya Perkins has a wonderful new CD out and celebrated at the Metropolitan Room May 16 with a great swing band behind her. Musical Director/Arranger was Bob Albanese and the wildly swinging band behind Sonya was John Bailey on trumpet, John Benitez on bass, and Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax on drums and percussion. The Metropolitan Room was packed with singers, friends who had seen Perkins at Trudi Mann’s late lamented open mic shows, and a group from a charity organization that Perkins works with on Long Island.
Perkins, whose influences are Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Horn, Anita O’Day, Chet Baker, and Andy Bey, has one of the purest vocal instruments of jazz singers singing today, and she embellishes that with an acting performance and unique, but on the nose, phrasing giving life to the lyrics she sings and swings on. The theme of the show was “Love” and she gave each selection a brief introduction on what phase of love the song represented.
Perkins’ first song was the Jane Powell song, “Wonder Why” and she expressed great joy as she sang that song in a swinging rhythm. Another selection was “Imagination” with a wild trumpet solo by Bailey that hit Maynard Ferguson high notes as the audience cheered. There was another wild trumpet solo on “Street of Dreams.”
Of course, she did her autobiographical song about being a psychoanalyst obsessed with singing once she got an IPod, wildly singing new lyrics (I Am Obsessed”) to “I Will Survive” with droll humor and smiling brilliance. And she swung on Noel Coward’s “Mad About the Boy” with wonderful solo work by each member of the band and a second chorus with frequently unsung lyrics.
“Don’t Blame Me” was tenderly presented with all its internal rhymes delicately phrased, and Perkins’ “Speak Low” was done in a wild swing tempo which worked well for that standard.
Because it’s Billie Holiday’s centennial, a major section was devoted to songs that Holiday sung. “Fine and Mellow, and ” You’ve Changed,” were great swingers, and Perkins did a wonderful “He’s Funny That Way” with a second set of lyrics I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. On each of them, her dramatic pauses were emotionally true and, again, her brilliant phrasing was unique and on the nose. Needless to say, the band was great, and she acknowledged each of them individually during her breaks.
Last, but not least, was her closing number, “That’s All” in which she again thanked each of the musicians and her mentors, including Marlon Saunders who is her vocal coach and was in the audience.
You can learn more about Sonya Perkins on her website www.sonyaperkins.com where samplings of her performances and her CDs are available.