The Cy Walter Centennial Celebration and CD Release Party
The Cutting Room, NYC, September 27, 2015
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes
Musically, 1915 was a very good year, with the birth of, among others, Billy Strayhorn, Frank Sinatra, Edith Piaf, Les Paul, Bart Howard, Billie Holiday and Cyril “Cy” Walter, composer, arranger and pianist. Hosted by Walter’s son, Mark, The Cy Walter Centennial Celebration and CD Release Party, a presentation of the newly formed Cy Walter Foundation, paid homage to Walter’s talent and body of work – and to the release of the two-volume CD set, Cy Walter, Pianist: Cy Walter, Composer: Sublimities (Harbinger Records).
“Music for Twilight,” Walter’s theme song, played by Musical Director Tedd Firth, was the first of 36 instrumental and vocal numbers performed, stretching over an ambitious three hours. Piano works (Walter was known for his piano arrangements for four hands) included Firth and Jed Distler with “Lover,” and Firth and Jenny Lin with “Begin the Beguine.” The lush, lyrical and often sprightly style of Walter was demonstrated by pianist Alex Hassan, and by singer-pianists Ronny Whyte and Eric Comstock. Piano giants Peter Mintun and Steve Ross performed an energetic and truly inspired series of variations on “You Do Something to Me.”
Vocal treats studded the evening, with the added delight of newly-emerged Walter compositions, such as “So Strange,” sung by Doug Bowles, “Don’t Think It Wasn’t Lovely” performed by Barbara Fasano, and “The Next Time Around” sung by Jeff Harnar. A cavalcade of other A-list performers vocalized Walter’s work, including Karen Oberlin, Marissa Mulder, Jennifer Sheehan, KT Sullivan, and Stacy Sullivan, who closed out the Walter-fest with the composer’s “It’s Time to Say Good Night.”
At about the three-quarter mark, a swinging 12 piece-orchestra took the stage, supplementing the zesty accompaniment of Firth, bassist Tom Hubbard and drummer Peter Grant. Another centennial-celebration goody was presented in the penultimate number of the evening – a swing trot dance with the very lively Heather Gehring and Lou Brockman performing to Walter’s “The Astaire.”
Cy Walter, also known for his improvisational skills and sophisticated harmonics, was admirably served over the course of this tribute; it may have been overly-long, but was still, as Marissa Mulder sang, “Some Fine Day.”