Linda Lavin at Cafe Carlyle with Billy Stritch and Aaron Weinstein - New York City Article
The Café Carlyle
35 E 76th Street, (212) 744-1600
Through Saturday May 19
The strengths of Linda Lavin’s debut at the Cafe Carlyle are twofold: first, there’s Miss Lavin herself: the 80-year-old veteran actress-singer is so happy to be there, so full of contagious joy and positive energy, that the rest of us can’t help but be happy to be there as well. Then there’s the music, as directed by ace pianist Billy Stritch, as played by a band full of jazzmen who, like himself, are improvisational virtuosi but who are uncommonly attuned to the lyrical nuances of show music and the Great American Songbook. That’s particularly true of the young hot violin savant Aaron Weinstein, and also for guitarist Ron Afiff, bassist Tom Hubbard, and drummer Steve Bakunas. (the latter is also Ms. Lavin’s husband.) The combination of Ms. Lavin’s warmth and exuberant personality along with Mr. Stritch’s uniquely musical arrangements makes for a singularly rewarding evening.
Mr. Stritch has the ability to put together songs in various combinations in a way that makes both narrative and musical sense, and, for her part, Ms. Lavin excels at putting two or more songs and making a coherent whole out of them. Naturally she sings both of the standards she introduced in musical theater - both, surprisingly, with a Brazilian accent, like Stephen Sondheim’s subversively arch Jobim parody, “The Boy From…” (from The Mad Show). Charles Strouse’s “You’ve Got Possibilities” (from the 1966 Superman musical, and warming us up for the 90th birthday salute to the composer at 54 Below this Sunday May 13) is rendered with both a bossa undertow and a heavy sampling of “My Little Suede Shoes,” the classic calypso attributed to Charlie Parker. (There’s also a blues montage that mashes up the Harlem Hamfats with Steely Dan.) Linda Lavin is best known to most folks as a TV sitcom star, especially all nine seasons and 202 episodes of Alice (1976-1985), but she’s well on the way to making everyone think of her first and foremostly as a highly-entertaining singer and supper club diva.
Photo, of Linda Lavin and mentor and Broadway avatar Hal Prince (who came to the Wednesday night performance) by Stephen Sorokoff.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)