Gina Gershon - Wild Women Don't Have the Blues - New York City Article
“Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues”
The Café Carlyle
35 E 76th Street, (212) 744-1600
Through June 16
We might have known something was up when a musician bearing the name “Gina Gershon” mysteriously turned up – and playing the Jew’s harp no less - on Conversations with Christian, a 2011 album of duets by Christian McBride. Who could this be, bearing the same name as the famous high-glam, high-energy, high-estrogen Hollywood seductress, somehow collaborating with the bassist, bandleader, and all-around jazz avatar? (What’s next, Sandra Bullock playing Melodica or clavietta?) Seven years later, the mystery is solved: the unknown Jews harpist turns out to be the actress herself. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised: she’s already sung on Broadway in two classic musicals (Bye Bye Birdie and Cabaret); furthermore, the first time most of us had heard of her was in another somewhat musical venture, when producer Tina Sinatra rather cleverly cast Ms. Gershon as her mother, Nancy Sinatra Sr., in the 1992 miniseries bio Sinatra. (In this rather unique telling of the Sinatra saga, the mystery is why Frank leaves Nancy for Ava Gardner, played by the relatively frumpy Marcia Gay Harden, when Nancy is as hot as, well, Gina Gershon.)
For Ms. Gershon’s cabaret, or to be less literal, one-woman supper club show, debut, she has made some rather out-of-the-box choices, starting with a jazzier-than-usual backup group (by Carlyle standards) helmed by trumpeter Steven Bernstein (a brassman sharp enough to realize that the cutting edge cuts in both directions) and featuring pianist Eli Bruggerman, bassist Brad Jones, and drummer Jerome Jennings. The repertoire includes a few nods to tradition, like “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” but Ms. Gershon may be the first artist at the Carlyle – where the spirit of Bobby Short hangs over everyone, no matter how unorthodox she or he may be - to honor his legacy by reminding us what a great blues singer he was (in addition to everything else) with Lil Green’s “In the Dark.” There’s also some Hank Williams, Tom Waits, and Kenny Rogers along the way.
Starting with the famous 1929 blues by the legendary ida Cox, Ms. Gershon keeps the focus on the “wild women” of her family, specifically her great aunt and grandmother, telling us of their fiercely independent ways, and apetities for gambling, drinking, and the opposite. Near the end, she gradually slips in some life lessons learned from relationships, some delivered In a surprisingly poignant original song titled “Pretty Girls on Prozac,” others in an ingenious collage of about seven songs (starting with the 1952 country-pop crossover hit “You Belong to Me” and proceeding through Elvis Costello and Prince) that juxtaposes a few lines of each delivered inbetween spoken observations. Ms. Gershon only talks about her professional escapades for one brief section, and thankfully, the project that she chooses to tell us about is, as everyone in the crowd has been hoping for, the 1995 cult classic Show Girls. Gina Gershon’s vocal range may be somewhat limited, however her storytelling skills are anything but. Her show is intimate and revealing (although, to the disappointment of many, not in the specific way that Show Girls was) and highly moving.
photo: Ellen Qbertplaya
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)