[Dixielandjazz] A New York City Performance worth seeing.

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Oct 14 09:30:38 PDT 2005

Listmates in New York City between now and November 5 might want to stop by
the Algonquin's Oak Room to see/hear Ms. Paula West. She performs an
interesting mix of tunes, many classic OKOM, from Eubie Blake/Andy Razaf to
Cole Porter, with homage to Johnny Cash, Dylan and Bert Williams along the
way.  And the Eric Reed trio, backing her, is superbly musical.


Connecting With the Blues, and With Dylan

By STEPHEN HOLDEN - October 14, 2005 - NY TIMES

The pop-jazz singer Paula West was only half joking on Wednesday evening
when she described the songs in her adventurous new show as being about
underdogs. It's true that the Nina Simone-identified "See Line Woman"
describes a prostitute and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" is a
murderer's lament. The hundred-year-old Bert Williams-Alex Rogers classic
"Nobody," which Williams performed in blackface, is either tragic or mock
tragic, depending on how it's interpreted.

But Ms. West and her excellent backup group, the Eric Reed Trio, are also
performing "Hooray for Love," "Taking a Chance on Love" and Cole Porter's
orgiastic come-on "Too Darn Hot." And as the singer pointed out, Porter, the
last composer in the world you could call an underdog, also wrote about
prostitution ("Love for Sale") and murder ("Miss Otis Regrets").

The show, which continues at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room through Nov. 5,
finds Ms. West deepening her connections to the blues and to
African-American music in general, as well as continuing her examination of
Bob Dylan songs from a pop-jazz perspective. Two other groups replace Mr.
Reed's later in the run: the Xavier Davis Trio (Oct. 18-22) and the Bruce
Barth Trio (Oct. 25-Nov. 5).

Vocally, Ms. West is more confident than ever. The bottom end of her thickly
textured voice has ripened into a driving expressive force. In up-tempo
numbers she spews out the lyrics in long phrases that recall the Billie
Holiday style of blending sound and sense into delicious mouthfuls of swing.

Ms. West, who projects a sly, humorous sensuality, travels the high road
when it comes to raunch. The double-entendres in Eubie Blake and Andy
Razaf's "My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More" are understated but not ignored.
The lack of adornment in her calm, poised "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe,"
which she introduced as "a beautiful song about unconditional love,"
emphasized that very purity.

As for Mr. Dylan, in this engagement Ms. West and Mr. Reed have reshaped
"Mr. Tambourine Man" into a jazz ballad that comes across as a woman's
heeding of an inner voice telling her to cast off inhibitions and follow her
instincts. That's exactly what Ms. West is doing.

Paula West continues through Nov. 5 at the Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel, 59
West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331.

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