Press and Reviews

 

Kansas City - October 3, 2014

Kansas City Star

Marilyn Maye sparkles with the Kansas City Symphony

By Libby Hanssen


Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye sparkled at the Kauffman Center Thursday night. GARVEY SCOTT

 

Were Marilyn Maye not already a national treasure as a singer, her extraordinary stage presence alone would cast her as a great artist.


Maye sparkled with an insatiable verve, performing in Helzberg Hall with the Kansas City Symphony on Thursday night to an eager full house.


She received a standing ovation just for walking on stage.


“I love you all! And good night!” quipped Maye, “I’ll quit while I’m ahead.”


But she didn’t quit, exhibiting the most energy of anyone on that stage in two sets of her dusky, powerful and altogether enduring vocals, personal anecdotes and a continual message of love.


The songs were from the Great American Songbook, of which Maye is an expert interpreter.


Having recently received an award for her devotion to the art form, she joked, “I’m getting a lot of lifetime achievement awards these days.… I’m not through. I’m not finished yet.”


Maye referred to many songs throughout the concert as mantras, opening and closing with “It’s Today” and an encore of “Here’s to Life,” raising her water glass to toast the audience.


She progressed through happy-themed tunes and her signature rainbow-inspired medley, prismatic hues splashed across the hall’s Casavant organ.


With ease and charisma, Maye gently urged the audience to shout “hallelujah” during “Get Happy,” and her lyric treatment and scatting enlivened standards such as “Luck Be a Lady,” “On the Street Where You Live” and “I Love You Today.”


There were a few touchingly somber selections, including Lerner and Loewe’s marvelous “Too Late Now.”


Maye was backed by a quartet of jazz musicians along with the orchestra, directed by Aram Demirjian. He displayed a comfortable flexibility, embracing Maye’s nuanced phrasing and impulsive spirit. In one song Maye skipped a verse and insisted on going back; the whole ensemble managed to recover almost seamlessly and continue the song without stopping the flow of the piece.


Tedd Firth, her pianist and music director, arranged many of her selections, fitting her voice and talents perfectly and creating a lush presence with the orchestra. She also brought along drummer Jim Eklof and two of her longtime Kansas City compatriots, Gerald Spaits on bass and Rod Fleeman on guitar, each getting a solo opportunity on an up-tempo “Take Five.”


The event’s only drawbacks were the orchestra-only selections in lackluster arrangements and an ill-fitted drum part from Eklof, who otherwise shone with Maye.