Category: Music Review

Cabaret Review: John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey

On the basis of their new cabaret act at the Cafe Carlyle, entitled “When Worlds Collide”, I can confidently call the husband and wife team of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molasky the king and queen of mash-ups. No, really. These may not be dance-floor-ready combos of club and pop hits, but this show is all about unexpected combinations of songs and arrangements; in fact they raise the idea of the mash-up to as high and rarefied an art as you can get while still being “pop”.

The Pizzarellis represent the very height of cabaret’s jazzier side, with profound musical intelligence at work. The combinations they make are more than apt, they’re positively elegant. Some of them are almost too sophisticated to make an impact in a live situation. Their intricate combination of James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam” with Joe Henderson’s “The Kicker” will probably reveal itself better on repeated listens on their upcoming CD.

More often, though, they are right on target. There’s an instantly moving, very satisfying “fire and ice” mash-up of Jessica soulfully singing Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” opposite John smoothly whispering Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Waters of March”. And then there’s the Allman Brothers rock instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” cooled down and sped up in the spirit of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, allowing John and the band to solo with vigor, verve and virtuosity – breathtaking.

Overall, the singing’s smart, the music’s deftly swung and the atmosphere sparkles. Cabaret doesn’t get much better than this.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.





Cabaret Review: Marilyn Maye

by Jonathan Warman

Ella Fitzgerald once called Marilyn Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”. That’s no exaggeration – she may be the only singer alive who combines a great vocal instrument with interpretative flair and savoir faire equal to Ella’s own. There are younger singers who might posses more powerful voices but I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve, and vocal range – at 83, her voice would be the the envy of singers 40 years her junior.

Her new show at Feinstein’s (until November 12), “The Best Of Times Is Now!” honors the legendary Broadway composer Jerry Herman on this 80th Birthday year, featuring songs from his shows, both hits and obscurities. Marilyn starred in Herman’s Hello, Dolly! many times – she was known as “the singing Dolly” for the simple reason that no-one else who played the role sang it with more musicality. She loves the show so much that she’s recorded an album including every song (by every character) from the Tony Award-winning score.

Herman’s songs bring out the showman in Maye, the high spirits spurring her on to high kicks. Musical director Tedd Firth brings a glossy, sophisticated jazz musicianship to the proceedings, providing a luscious frame for Maye’s multifarious artistry. 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.

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. If you love classic songs sung like they’re meant to be sung, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.





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