Keepers of the Flame Pay Tribute to an
From the New York Times, November 16, 2005
any cabaret entertainer could be named the artistic heir to
the irreplaceable Bobby Short, the most likely candidate is
probably Michael Feinstein, the singer, pianist and musical
archivist, who is so busy he sometimes seems to be performing
on several New York stages at once.
differences make that lineage far from obvious. Mr. Short,
who died in March, was African-American, and Mr. Feinstein
is Jewish. Mr. Short was a hi-de-ho jazz entertainer who worshiped
Duke Ellington, while Mr. Feinstein kneels at the altar of
George Gershwin. One crowed; the other croons.
of their shared passion for the preservation of classic American
pop, however, it made sense that Mr. Feinstein should preside
as host of "A Celebration of Bobby Short" on Monday
evening at the club that bears his name, Feinstein's at the
Regency. Many of the same people who gathered six months ago
at the Cafe Carlyle for a similar tribute converged again
for a concert and a dinner whose dessert consisted of miniature
fruit-filled chocolate grand pianos.
show began with the kind of touch for which Mr. Feinstein
is well known: the unearthing of an extremely obscure 1940
recording of Mr. Short singing a bluesy number whose origins
Mr. Feinstein said were unclear. As the show got under way,
a superb house band led by the tenor saxophonist Loren Schoenberg
buoyed strong performances by a carefully chosen list of musical
guests. It was Mr. Schoenberg who put together the small swing
band that accompanied Mr. Short during his last years at the
Carlyle. And he recalled how Mr. Short, whose dream it was
to have a full band backing him, paid the musicians out of
his own pocket.
highlights: Barbara Carroll, lifted by the excellent rhythm
section, skipped happily through Cole Porter's "Looking
at You." Mary Cleere Haran found a lovely balance between
pensiveness and joy in "It Had to Be You." The jazz
impresario George Wein, accompanying himself on piano, growled
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" in the
scratchy voice of an old blues singer. Julie Wilson, flinging
her arms and acting up a storm, infused "From This Moment
On" with a wild exuberance.
pianist Bill Charlap reduced the room to a hush with an exquisite
Bill Evans-flavored rendition of the Gershwin-Irving Caesar
song "I Was So Young (You Were So Beautiful)." In
the evening's emotional high point, Mr. Charlap's mother,
Sandy Stewart, sang a throbbing, dramatically shaded rendition
of Porter's "After You," in seemingly telepathic
communication with her son.
the end of this graceful, loving tribute, produced by John
Schreiber, the torch had been passed.