Spencer Day at The Green Room 42 - New York City Article
The Green Room 42
570 Tenth Ave
4th Floor inside YOTEL
Next Two Shows: Friday August 17 and Friday September 21
At the start of his set, Spencer Day introduces himself with comparisons to other artists, and is self-described as “the gay-er John Mayer” and “the less iconic Harry Connick.” I was first introduced to the work of Mr. Day by the late Donald Smith, grand impresario of traditional “cabaret.” At that time, the artist aligned closely with other young pianist-singer-boychicks in a vaguely Connick-ish kind of a bag: Jamie Cullum, Peter Cincotti, Johnny Rodgers. It’s fascinating to see how they’ve all evolved individually over the years, though it’s hard to miss the apparent coincidence that in 2007, Mr. Cincotti released an album called East of Angel Town and Mr. Day’s new release is titled Angel City. Apart from the titles, the two projects have little in common, except that the sagacious Bill Boggs has categorized both releases as “Progressive Piano Pop.”
As much as he’s grown since then, Mr. Day still sticks to the late Donald’s core principle that cabaret, no matter what the musical style, basically begins with the idea of an intimate connection between performer and audience. Mr. Day’s original music draws on a wide range of styles, from show music to jazz and traditional songbook standards and contemporary pop, to the point where rather than sound like the sum of its myriad influences, you start to see the outlines of a unique personal approach. Of his original songs, I’m particularly drawn to “The California Yes” (“a probably likely at best…and maybe is always a ‘no’”) a major key waltz which he used to draw laughs live at the Green Room but sounds more plaintive on the album, soon contrasted with a heavier and more grand guignol, minor ¾ time number titled “Ghost Of The Chateau Marmont.” The latter, which I had to look up, is a familiar Sunset Boulevard landmark - and as those two titles indicate, most of the songs are the new album are autobiographical observations about living, loving, and trying to make it (in several senses of the word) in 21st Century Tinseltown. (And the album versions utilize full-scale, highly-attractive orchestral arrangements.)
Apart from his originals, Mr. Day’s show includes ingenious re-imaginings of songs you’ll know from Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and Jerome Kern (“Nobody Else But Me” from the Showboat revival) and a long, very funny, and well-constructed comedy medley examining the more extreme moments of familiar love songs. Mr. Day is a highly-hyphenated entertainer: singer-pianist-songwriter, but above all, he’s highly joyous to experience, and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t leave one of his shows feeling better than when he came in.
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)