[Dixielandjazz] Max Raabe at Zankel Hall in NYC

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 2 07:05:56 PST 2005

If you liked the movie/stage play Caberet, you would love Max Raabe. Here is
a review of his US debut in NYC.

Perhaps it would be fun to have a battle of the bands. Max Raabe and his
German Cabaret Band vs. Vince Giordano's Nighthawks?


A Bygone Era Evoked, Whiny Saxes and All

By ALLAN KOZINN December 2, 2005 NY Times

The German singer Max Raabe is fascinated with the cabaret music of the
Weimar Republic, and has built a career recreating the sounds and songs of
the 1920's and 30's. He has assembled an ensemble for the purpose, the
Palast Orchester, and its dozen players have assimilated the style and
interpretive moves of a period swing band. The timbres and articulation you
hear on old film soundtracks or shellac discs - the muted trumpets and
trombones, the slightly whiny sax section (or vibrato-laden solo saxophone),
the occasional soaring violin line and the solid but supple rhythm section -
all sound exactly right, and are suitably tuxedoed and polished.

The focus, though, is Mr. Raabe, whose amplified vocals are processed to
match the constricted timbre of a 1930's radio. To take the illusion a step
further, he has adopted some of the exaggerated vowel sounds that can be
heard on recordings of the era. And he has the part down visually as well.
His flaxen hair is slicked back, his tuxedo is a notch or two fancier than
those of the ensemble, and his facial expressions vary from arch to slightly
pouty. When he sings, he is virtually immobile, with his hands at his sides;
during the ensemble's introductions and solos, he leans casually against the

A listener not abidingly involved with Weimar-era cabaret might have
expected Mr. Raabe's Zankel Hall recital on Wednesday night to have songs by
Weill, Eisler and other composers whose works in this style were written
with classical ambitions, but for a popular audience. Mr. Raabe edged in
that direction with Lehar's "Dein is mein ganzes Herz" and texturally and
melodically complicated pieces like Walter Jurmann's "Ninon" and Robert
Stoltz's "Salome." Mostly, though, his selections were pure pop, much of it
American, including Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," Cole Porter's "Night
and Day" and - in a nicely cross-cultural twist - "Bei Mir Bist du Schön,"
with Sammy Cahn's English lyrics.

There were German works as well, and some German versions of songs listeners
would know in English (for example, "Schöner Gigolo," better known
hereabouts as "Just a Gigolo"). Mr. Raabe's arrangements were thoughtful,
even erudite: he opted for the original dance-band version of "Singing in
the Rain" instead of the swankier and more famous big-band scoring, and his
version of "Happy Days Are Here Again," calling for five-part vocal
harmonies that evoke the Comedian Harmonists, was light-years distant from
the more typical use of the song these days, as a tub-thumper at political

A little of this goes a long way, and Mr. Raabe sang lots of it. But his
brisk pacing and droll introductions kept the program moving, and the
virtuosic ensemble was full of surprises, including a version of "Dort Tanzt
Lulu," by Will Meisel and Franz Stolzenwald, that ended with the entire band
playing hand bells. 

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