by Joe Regan Jr.
The Shakespearean Jazz Show is made up of a group of jazz musicians and singers who got together when they were students at Emerson College and the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. They’ve all graduated now and are spread out all over the country and some are in Broadway shows. Their most recent appearance in New York City was at The Cell in November, and they played to a sold out house Thursday, February 24 at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Their repertoire is Shakespearean words set to a New Orleans jazz beat. All of the musical settings have been composed by their leader, Patrick Greeley, who plays the piano, clarinet, and also contributes vocals.
The opening number, called “Prologue,” is a recitation of Hamlet’s speech to the Players, beginning with “Speak the Speech,” begun a cappella by Max Sangerman, who plays the trumpet and was gradually joined by Greeley on piano and then the full jazz band. The band consists of Adrian Aiello on guitar (and sometimes mandolin), Adam Salameh on drums and percussion, and Danny Weller on bass. We knew we were in for a very unusual evening as the room rocked with their great sound. During the show there was a great deal of interaction with the audience members, including kisses and shout backs. When the singers were in the wings of the stage they were often utilizing small bags and drum sticks to add percussion to the selections. It was fun to see all this activity.
Jenna Rogalski, a small, hippie-esque girl began softly with “Sigh No More” before swinging with the big band. She was joined by cute Daniel Irwin to sing pieces from Sonnets 95 and 96 backed by Sangerman’s great trumpet work. Sangerman took over the mic to sing a bright “Wit Peddler,” again alternating his vocal with his horn. Greeley himself sang a song based on Sonnet 109.
One of the most touching songs was “Mariana” from All’s Well That Ends Well. Mariana is the prostitute who is hired to do a bed trick so Helena, the heroine, can get the ring her husband has demanded she get before he will love her. Mariana, in the scene, feels real love for Ferdinand, the husband. Sweet looking Gabe Gibbs, taking the night off from playing Elder Price in The Book of Norman, sang a tour de force on these lyrics with the band blasting behind him.
“Come Away Death” was sung by Sangerman, again playing his trumpet like Maynard Ferguson; and “Lonely Boy” was sung by gamin-looking Talia Robinson wearing dangerously high-heeled blue shoes that did not stop her from jazz dancing with the musicians.
Gibbs and Rogalski joined forces on a wild riff entitled “Canakin Clink” which included whistles and dancing “because my needy boy is so good to me.”
One of the most famous songs in the Shakespearean plays is “Sylvie” from Two Gentlemen of Verona. Irwin began it as a solo, but was joined by a trio of singers and rocked it to a smash finish.
Greeley’s great jazz setting to “Wind and the Rain” was extra special, with vocals by Gibbs and Robinson and the whole band getting individual solos. The audience stood up and clapped in rhythm as all of the singers joined forces to bring the show to a smashing finish.
These musicians have a great CD entitled Speak the Speech which can be found on their website www.ShakespeareanJazzShow.com and you can friend them on Facebook for more information.
The Shakespearean Jazz Show played Feinstein’s/54 Below on February 24, 2016.