[Dixielandjazz] What American Songbook and Dixieland have in common.

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 10 07:14:03 PDT 2009

Dire predictions of  genre demise are continually being made about  
both the American Songbook and Dixieland. Yet both seem to be  
surviving. Here's the case for the survival of American Songbook.
Cheers, 																					Steve Barbone 									www.myspace.com/barbonestreetjazzband

October 9, 2009 - NY TIMES - by Stephen Holden

Teenagers and 80-Somethings, Sustaining a Genre

It is a testament to the resilience of nightclubs dedicated to the  
classic American songbook that the annual New York Cabaret Convention,  
now celebrating its 20th year, continues to defy dire predictions of  
the genre’s demise. At Wednesday’s opening-night gala — the first of  
three consecutive evening concerts (each with a different lineup) at  
the Rose Theater — a hefty segment of the cabaret world gathered once  
again to make the case for the vitality of traditional pop.

Performers ranging in age from their 80s (Marilyn Maye, Barbara  
Carroll) to 18 (the precociously polished crooner Nicolas King)  
asserted the continuity of ageless, trend-resistant pop-jazz music in  
the age of Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne (stars most members of the  
predominantly over-50 audience had probably never heard of).

Applying her rich, robust voice to a suite of Johnny Mercer songs, Ms.  
Maye, exuding a self-possession remarkable for a performer of any age,  
brought down the house. Ms. Carroll, who has performed at every  
convention since its outset, offered a contemplative jazz arrangement  
of “Somewhere” and talk-sang the Gershwins’ witty “Who Cares?” Ms.  
Maye and Ms. Carroll, who have improved with the years, exude a  
sagacity that can be earned only through personal and artistic  
experience; there is no shortcut.

Nurturing young talent, of course, is essential to the genre’s  
survival. And the appearances of a traditional crooner like Mr. King  
and Carole Bufford, a folk-blues singer who delivered strong pop- 
slanted renditions of Johnny Cash and Bessie Smith songs, suggest that  
the talent is there waiting to be harvested. Mr. King, accompanied on  
piano by Mike Renzi, played the young-pup card, singing polished  
renditions of “Where Is Love?” (from “Oliver!”) and “Blame It on My  

Cabaret, perhaps more than any other field of show business, is kept  
alive by performers and presenters who do it for love without  
expecting the heavens to rain down riches. Committed individuals like  
Donald Smith, the convention’s producer and the founder of the  
nonprofit Mabel Mercer Foundation, make all the difference. If Mr.  
Smith’s personal tastes lean toward 1940s and ’50s styles associated  
with the Upper East Side, in discovering talent he is not exclusionary.

The performers comprised a stylistic potpourri that embraced a  
cappella pop-jazz vocals (the Accidentals, an octet), vaudevillian  
comic shtick (Sidney Myer), Jacques Brel (Amanda McBroom) and hyper- 
emotive heart-on-sleeve belting (Eric Michael Gillett, Karen Mason).  
For cool sophistication there was Wesla Whitfield, singing songs from  
“Fiorello!,” and Mary Cleere Haran (in fine voice), with whom she  
traded verses of “The Lady Is a Tramp.” Swanning across the stage,  
Andrea Marcovicci, who sang “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You),”  
embodied old-time Hollywood glamour at its most extravagant.

The program was given a major boost by Brian Stokes Mitchell, the  
first of two surprise guests, who sang the same inspirational medley  
of “America the Beautiful” (done a cappella) and “Wheels of a  
Dream” (from “Ragtime”) that he introduced to thundering response at  
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency days after the last presidential election.

In the other surprise, Christine Andreas ended the evening with a  
dramatically explosive “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” The  
onetime ingénue, now 58, may be all grown up, but she is still radiant.

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