In her legendary April 23, 1961 Carnegie Hall concert, after belting the very torchy “Alone Together”, Judy Garland told the audience, “You know, I’m always known – if I’m known at all – I’m known for singing very sad, tragic, songs…or just HUUAAAAHH!! Marches and holiday songs!! But, you know, I like to sing in-between sometimes. I do like to sing jazz and they wont let me. I don’t know who they are, but they won’t let me.” And she proceeds to have a nine-man combo come out of the orchestra and accompany her for a set of jazzier numbers.
In their new cabaret act at Feinstein’s Rebecca Kilgore and the Harry Allen Quartet don’t explicitly imitate that singular moment in Garland’s career. Rather they look at her entire career, from vaudeville (“You Made Me Love You”) through television (“The Sweetest Sounds”) from a jazzy point of view. They succeed best with obscurities from her early film career, such as “The Jitterbug” – cut from The Wizard of Oz – and “The Joint is Really Jumping Down At Carnegie Hall”.
Kilgore and Allen are both fine, tasteful interpreters – Kilgore gives the original melody full play before swinging it every so gently, and Allen’s complex improvisations exude a cool, classic jazz vibe reminiscent of Lester Young or Zoot Sims. Allen’s arrangements include some clever details, such as inserting a bit of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Águas de Marco” into Harry Warren’s “Friendly Star”.
If I were to fault them, it would be for being almost too tasteful, rendering some of their interpretations merely polite. But, ever tasteful, they never descend into true dullness, and Kilgore and Allen are both capable of catching fire (they do in “The Man That Got Away”, thank goodness) – I just wish that happened more often.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.