[Dixielandjazz] Paula West

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 16 06:28:37 PDT 2010

This should be a wonderful show. The George Mesterhazy (yes Tamas, he  
is of Hungarian descent)  quartet backing her is superb. As many know,  
George is from Cape May New Jersey, gigs there almost exclusively, and  
is one of the finest OKOM jazz pianists out there today.

Steve Barbone

Dylan, Channeled by Billie Holiday
NY TIMES - By Stephen Holden - October 16 2010

For the jazz singer Paula West, the American songbook, from Irving  
Berlin through Bob Dylan, is a banquet from which she selects favorite  
dishes and stirs in her own secret ingredients to make them her own.  
Those added flavors include a sly sense of mischief that can quicken  
the pulse of a Berlin song like “The Best Things Happen While You’re  
Dancing” or turn Cole Porter’s “I’m in Love Again,” into a delirious  
explosion of joy.

Her appreciation of the energy of language allows her to inhabit a  
Dylan song and treat it in the manner of Billie Holiday, slurring its  
syllables into a hip tone poem, in which the words, while not  
unintelligible, are subsumed by the rhythms inside the phrases. She  
has done it before with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Mr.  
Tambourine Man.” And in her new show at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency,  
“Shelter From the Storm” was similarly reinvented.

For the last several years Ms. West has found an invaluable  
collaborator in the pianist and arranger George Mesterhazy. At  
Feinstein’s he leads a quartet whose members include the blues  
guitarist Ed Cherry, the bassist Barak Mori and the drummer Jerome  

At Tuesday’s opening-night show they helped her carry songs, some  
famous, others obscure, in new directions in an untitled program that  
might have been called “Paula West’s Musical Cookbook.” The Hoagy  
Carmichael-Paul Francis Webster jazz standard “Baltimore Oriole” was  
spiced up with a modified Afro-Cuban rhythm that lofted its jivey  
lyric about some sexy birds playing dangerous romantic games into the  
ether. Ms. West pumped rapid-fire rhythmic zest into “I Love to  
Singa,” an Arlen-Harburg novelty originally popularized by Al Jolson  
and Cab Calloway.

A vintage country music nugget, “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your  
Eyes,” that Perry Como rode to the top of the pop charts in 1953, was  
unearthed and polished to a sparkle. Ms. West’s take on “I Can’t Get  
Started,” the standard that everybody likes to update, mentioned  
George Clooney and the stock market. This complaint of a boastful,  
overprivileged celebrity, given the cold shoulder by a potential  
conquest, is definitely a song for our time.

Ms. West’s handling of Berlin’s “Supper Time,” the lament of a mother  
who doesn’t know how to tell her children that their father was  
lynched, was given a devastating reading that balanced stoicism and  
tragedy, as she built it steadily into a barely contained howl of  
grief. Her restraint and dignity only added to the dramatic clout.

Paula West performs through Saturday (she returns Nov. 22 to 27) at  
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue, at 61st Street; (212)  

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