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Tag Archives: William Blake

At Last

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Picture it, New York City 1961. Grown people in girdles and fedoras could stumble into any one of dozen of night clubs and hear standards or jazz performed at the highest level. They would sit at their tiny tables; a shaded candle casting them in a flattering glow, sip their Manhattans while wrapped in a haze of cigarette smoke and either bop or swoon to sophisticated stylings. Sitting last night in the Cafe Carlyle, wrapped in Marcel Vertes murals, those halcyon days were brought back to life by William Blake. Resplendent in his black velvet jacket and beatific smile, Mr. Blake brings the best of the past back to life with his flawless show, Echoes of Etta: A Tribute To Etta James.

The audience danced in their seats to the rocking numbers ably backed by the swaying singing synchronicity of The Peaches (Ashley Betton, Shira Elias and Stephany Mora). The Peaches and the audience’s upper bodies were given a break periodically when Mr. Blake turned to the standards made famous by Ms. James. Pianist and co-creator Michael Thomas Murray joined Blake in duets to wonderful effect. Their strong smooth voices complemented each other and created something rich and large. The band (
Oscar Bautista, guitar; 
Mike Shapiro, drums; Frank Canino, bass)
 filled the stage and filled the room. Together they created a magnificent sound one rarely stumbles upon today. This fact was confirmed towards the end of the show when the curtained doorway parted. Jammed into the entry of the club were half a dozen people drawn to the sound. Their faces were a mix of joy and absolutely awe.

While the Etta James songbook is an ideal canvas for Mr. Blake’s range, he is not an impersonator but in fact the real thing. With the power of a rocker and the soul of a jazz singer he brings a tender strength to ballads and a growling ferocity to blues. There’s little doubt his talent could take him wherever his heart desires, but for the sake of those yearning to come taste the wine, and to come hear the band, let us hope Mr. Blake never leaves the cabaret.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Jim Caruso’s Cast Party

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Did you ever pine for Ed Sullivan? Maybe ‘pining’ for the real Ed is a stretch, but what about the beatific Ed of Bye Bye Birdie? Either Ed Sullivan that promised and delivered a really big show of stellar entertainment can create a longing and wishful thinking. His was a show that practically guaranteed that if you could make it there you would make it everywhere. Well if you could do without the spinning plates, dogs prancing on hind legs and monkeys on bicycles; if you don’t mind your Ed now dashing, debonair, brimming with charm and humor, then have I got the Ed Sullivan Redux Show for you!

Jim Caruso has been throwing his Cast Party at Birdland for 10 years. Each Monday night those folks in the business of show flock to West 44th Street to take to the stage and audience. The standards, show tunes, and jazz flow seamlessly in no small part because of Mr. Caruso’s producing, M.C.ing and song. The stellar band (Ted Firth on piano, Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums) provides a wonderful constant and backbone to the evening. They opened last night with a gorgeous jazzy homage that set the mood and the stage for Mr. Caruso’s medley of We’re In The Money/Pennies From Heaven. The audience was then treated to over a dozen performers and songs that included; If I Were A Bell, Everybody Says Don’t, Just In Time, and It’s Alright With Me. Stylings ranged from crooning to belting and all were flawless. However when William Blake took to the stage and delivered At Last the air in the room changed. There is wonderful and even excellent performing, and then there’s magic. There really is no other word for it. Mr. Blake delivered this song, which you’ve heard before but never like this, with the power of a rocker and the soul of a jazz singer. He brought a tender strength to the song I never imagined possible. He admitted to “showing off” for audience members Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein, and if that what comes from ‘showing off’ have at it Mr. Blake. (Speaking of wanting or not wanting to show off, The Drowsy Chaperone’s music/lyrist Lisa Lambert was in the house.)

We often grouse over the dearth of great entertainment. We wax poetic about the heyday of the variety show and bemoan the proliferation of game shows and contests passing as entertainment. How wonderful to know that as we once turned to CBS every Sunday night, we now can turn to Birdland every Monday night; where we’ll be treated to an ever-changing roster of phenomenal talent and the constant of the consummate showman Jim Caruso.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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