Press and Reviews
New York, NY - March 7, 2013
The New York Times, Music Review
Lady in Red, Upbeat and Proud of It
Marilyn Maye at 54 Below
By Stephen Holden
“Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” I thought of that famous declaration by Auntie Mame while listening to the unstoppable Marilyn Maye at 54 Below on Wednesday evening. After playing almost everywhere in New York over the last several years Ms. Maye has finally landed at a club she approvingly dubbed a nightclub, rather than a cabaret.
|Marilyn Maye at 54 Below.
Wearing a glittering red dress, she could have been Mame, Dolly or any larger-than-life supergal from the Jerry Herman songbook to which she brings more vitality than any other contemporary performer. Her theme song is Mr. Herman’s live-for-the-moment anthem “It’s Today.” Ms. Maye may be turning 85 in April, but she has more voice and stamina than most singers half her age. Although many of the songs in her new show, “Maye-den Voyage,” are numbers she has performed before, nothing sounded stale on Wednesday. Her voice was full and rich and perfectly in tune, and she displayed a voluptuous enjoyment of singing.
The program consisted of standards arranged in blocks (a Cole Porter suite, a medley of songs with “happy” in the title) and astute pairings (“Lover Man” with “When Your Lover Has Gone,” “Lazy Afternoon” with “Bye Bye Country Boy”). Ms. Maye is usually upbeat but not always. Although she is a symbol of resilience, she is not invulnerable.
Singing, “Don’t you know, little fool, you never can win,” in “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” she administered a tart scolding to herself. The “south of you” in “All of You” had wry edge of innuendo. Her breezily paced “Blues in the Night” was tough and cleareyed. For “Take Five” she broke into a percussive vocal improvisation like a vocal racehorse.
Ms. Maye’s trio (Tedd Firth on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Jim Eklof on drums) has never been tighter. Over time her relationship with Mr. Firth has developed into a formidable collaboration in which they continually challenge each other to take chances, be jazzier and swing with more abandon. On Wednesday they surpassed themselves.