[Dixielandjazz] The Cabaret Scene.

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 18 06:39:35 PDT 2006

For those of us who grew up in post WW 2 New York City, this reminder of the
"Sounds of Cabaret",  will evoke pleasant memories.

Such wonderfully sophisticated clubs on the upper East Side, as well as
further downtown at places like One Fifth Avenue. etc. All devoted to the
music of The American Songbook.

Steve Barbone

The Sounds of Cabaret, Both Innocent and Elegant

NY TIMES  - By STEPHEN HOLDEN - October 18, 2006

The singer and pianist Steve Ross received the second annual Mabel Award on
Monday evening ³in recognition of his four decades of style, taste, flair
and communicative power as the American troubadour.² The words of that
citation, bestowed at Rose Hall in the opening-night program of the Cabaret
Convention, say a lot about the event, produced by Donald Smith, the
executive director of the Mabel Mercer Foundation.

The convention, now in its 17th year, evokes the musical ambience of the
Upper East Side of Manhattan, circa 1959, as an urbane utopia. To attend a
Cabaret Convention event is to enter a world in which Bob Dylan, that
quintessential American troubadour, might as well not have been born.

In receiving his award, Mr. Ross talked about ³sophistication,² a word that
when applied to popular music was once synonymous with popular standards
interpreted with particular attention paid to witty double-entendres and
racy metaphors. But in today¹s verbally forthright pop climate, the word has
come to connote nostalgia for good manners, taste, discretion and subdued
elegance. In a sense, yesterday¹s worldliness has become today¹s innocence.

³Say It With Music,² the first of five programs, was devoted to the songs of
Irving Berlin. Mr. Ross distilled the tone of the evening by recollecting
his first encounter with Mabel Mercer, the international chanteuse (and the
convention¹s spiritual godmother) who died in 1984. Her emotional empathy,
he recalled, helped him recover from a broken heart. By turns breezy and
bittersweet, he channeled both Mercer and Fred Astaire in his impeccable,
understated renditions of ³How Deep Is the Ocean,² ³Cheek to Cheek² and
³Let¹s Face the Music and Dance.²

Barbara Carroll, who won last year¹s Mabel award, brought a similar grace,
understanding, classical refinement and charm to ³Be Careful, It¹s My Heart²
and ³Blue Skies.² Klea Blackhurst channeled Ethel Merman with lusty versions
of ³Alexander¹s Ragtime Band² and ³There¹s No Business Like Show Business.²

Judy Blazer (³What¹ll I Do?² ) echoed Judy Garland¹s vocal quaver, and
Lumiri Tubo (³Harlem on My Mind,² ³Supper Time²) suggested Ethel Waters by
way of Josephine Baker.

The evening¹s comic high point was K T Sullivan¹s deliciously saucy ³You¹d
Be Surprised,² an uncharacteristically sexy Berlin song from 1919 to which
she brought a Mae West swivel. (³He doesn¹t look much like a lover/ But
don¹t judge a book by its cover.²) A slow, ruminative ³Always,² by Sandy
Stewart (accompanied on piano by Bill Charlap), sung in broken phrases that
divided the song into different registers, struck the deepest note and
turned the song into a lingering meditation on time itself.

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