“The Marvelous Marilyn Maye” – it’s a phase that me and my husband have come to say with relish, and we get excited every time we get to see her. Ella Fitzgerald once called Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”, and I can tell you that’s no exaggeration. There are younger singers who have more powerful voices, but I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve and vocal range, still the envy of singers many years her junior.
Her new show at 54 Below, “Maye-den Voyage”, features many of her signature songs, including “Golden Rainbow” and “It’s Today”. Her repertoire for the evening ranges from a stunning version of “My Ship” from Lady in the Dark and a dazzling New York medley to a rip-roaring “Blues in the Night”, and even Dave Brubeck’s big hit “Take Five”.
Maye exquisitely tailors her style of singing to the individual song, smooth for the ballads, swinging for the standards, and truly gritty for the bluesier numbers. This is a classic act in every sense of the phrase. Maye is a jazz-pop singer worthy of being included in the company of Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn or Blossom Dearie (whose “Bye Bye Country Boy” she pairs with “Lazy Afternoon”), and her phrasing is the finest I’ve heard in that style from a living singer.
Maye appeared on Johnny Carson’s edition of “The Tonight Show” a total of 76 times, a record not likely ever to be beaten by any other singer with any other host. She’s been enjoying a New York renaissance, making critically acclaimed appearances all over town. If you love classic songs sung like they’re meant to be sung, it doesn’t get any better than this.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.