by David Tane
New York jazz lovers are a hardy lot. Braving the first snow storm of the season, a healthy crowd made its way downstairs to the Birdland Theatre for the Anderson Brothers’ salute to Cole Porter. It may have been cold outside but Will and Peter Anderson (Juilliard trained twin brothers) warmed up the theatre with their “Le Jazz Hot” renditions of Porter standards.
These versatile performers (they could constitute an impressive wind section all on their own) were ably assisted by pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Phil Stewart. On several numbers, the band was joined by vocalist Yaala Ballin, whose appealing swinging jazz inflected voice was a treat to hear although, unfortunately, less than optimal sound balance often made it difficult to hear her.
The evening followed the brothers Anderson usual format – jazz renditions of great standards interwoven with biographical tidbits from Porter’s life. Will does the talking and Peter handles the arranging chores – a division of labor which has served them well.
The show opened with Porter’s 1935 classic, “Begin The Beguine”, (written for the Broadway show, Jubilee), and made famous by Artie Shaw, which, according to Will is the longest pop song ever written. At 108 bars, nearly four times the standard 32 bar pop song, I believe it. Will and Peter put their tenor and alto saxes to good use and the song flew by effortlessly. Peter’s plaintive clarinet treatment of Porter’s comical “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” which Mary Martin sang in her Broadway debut in the 1938 musical Leave It To Me, sent shivers of delight up my spine.
Vocalist Yaala Ballin was at home with Porter’s oft sung “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “I Get A Kick Out Of You.” The latter tune demonstrates Porter’s amazing facility with words – he’s deservedly been called the master of the interior rhyme – witness the last couplet of the lyric which boasts no fewer than five interior rhymes: “Flying too high with some guy in the sky is my i-dea of nothing to do.” Ms. Ballin swung with the less often heard “From This Moment On” and gave a lovely rendition of one of my favorite Porter ballads, “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” Hopefully, the kinks in the sound balance will be worked out so Ms. Ballin can be heard without straining. She deserves it.
As one of the great Broadway composer/lyricists of his day (it’s a club with a very limited membership – besides Porter, only Berlin and Loesser come to mind), it’s easy to be dazzled by Porter’s lyrics and forget how adept he was at creating beautiful melodies. Will and Peter, however, made sure to demonstrate Porter’s melodic brilliance with standout renditions of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” still fresh after 90 years, and “Night And Day,” nearly as old.
I can’t end this review without giving kudos to pianist Jeb Patton, whose facility as a jazz pianist is second to none in my book. While he provided wonderful support throughout the evening, his solo version of Porter’s “Ev’rything I Love” (an infrequently heard gem from 1941’s Let’s Face It) was fabulous and drew enthusiastic cheers from the audience.
It was the Anderson Brothers’ Birdland debut on December 2. Here’s hoping they return soon, and often.