[Dixielandjazz] STEVE ROSS - A mix of Astaire, American Songbook & Stride Pianist

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 9 06:23:27 PST 2004

Anyone visiting NYC for the Holidays might want to consider seeing Steve
Ross at the 59E59 Theater.

Steve Barbone 

December 9, 2004 - NY TIMES - By STEPHEN HOLDEN

Astaire Style With Wry Asides

After returning from Switzerland from a rejuvenation treatment that involved
the injection of sheep glands, Noël Coward remarked to Cole Porter, "I've
got ewe under my skin." Apocryphal or not, that's the wittiest of the few
scattered one-liners that Steve Ross drops in his two-act show, "Steve Ross
Stars," at the 59E59 Theaters. It's a pity that this eternally dapper singer
and pianist hasn't come up with a dozen more just as savory.

A devotee of the sound, style and attitude of Coward, Porter and Fred
Astaire, Mr. Ross takes the standards of the 1930's and 40's at face value
until the self-conscious moment he pauses to notice what's underneath. After
overlooking the undercurrents of anxiety in "Shall We Dance?," "Let's Face
the Music and Dance" and even "Puttin' on the Ritz" (the Irving Berlin ditty
that celebrates an ostentatious display of the period equivalent of bling
and Prada), he lets the shadows in with "Dancing in the Dark." The
breathless pace of the music slows, and he wryly comments on its existential

The show finds him joined by a second pianist (Laura Bergquist, his partner
on Sunday, alternates with Tom Jennings) and Nicholas Walker on bass. A
second piano adds little to Mr. Ross's ornamental stride piano, which takes
most of the songs at a briskly militant foxtrot buoying dry, talky singing
that treats the material as clever light verse.

The first act is devoted to songs associated with Astaire. Unlike the other
two current Astaire tributes - by Andrea Marcovicci at the Algonquin Hotel
and Eric Comstock and friends at Birdland - this one is less historically
oriented. Mr. Ross, outfitted in bow tie and tails, adopts the look, if not
the more relaxed vocal style of his hero. In the second act he roams around,
from Kander and Ebb (three songs from "Chicago") to Jerry Herman to Jim
Croce, striking comic gold in Murray Grand's barbed fable, "The Spider and
the Fly." 

As always, Mr. Ross is wary of betraying any hints of sentimentality. But
when he drops his guard to sing "My Shining Hour" with a tenderness that has
willfully been withheld, you are foolishly grateful for a flash of

"Steve Ross Stars" is at the 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street in
Manhattan, through Dec. 31.

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