Eric Yves Garcia: Keeper of the Keys

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Eric Yves Garcia

Keeper of the Keys

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, October 21, 2016

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Kevin Alvey
Eric Yves Garcia
Photo: Kevin Alvey

From the earliest days of honky-tonks and juke joints, through the speakeasy era to the days of elegant nightclubs and cabarets, the tradition of the singer-pianist has included luminaries such as Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, Hugh Shannon, George Feyer and many more unsung. Eric Yves Garcia follows in these august footsteps—a smooth crooner with a lyrical touch on the eighty eights.

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He’s an accomplished performer with an acute sense of history and an appreciation of style, and what’s more, he’s a bona fide writer.

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Garcia’s shows are a well-considered musical tour from which one emerges both highly entertained and enriched.

Keeper of the Keys begins with a dramatic entrance from the rear of the house, a singing stroll to the stage and an extended piano solo on “Penthouse Serenade (When We’re Alone)” (Val Burton/Will Jason) a tribute to jazz artist Nat King Cole, before the celebrated singer-player turned to pop music. Cole was a man of many hits, including “Nature Boy” (eden ahbez), “Unforgettable” (Irving Gordon) and “Mona Lisa” (Ray Evans/Jay Livingston), a chart-topper famously rejected by Frank Sinatra. Another big hit for Cole, “Star Dust,” was performed with acknowledgement to the singing pianist-composer Hoagy Carmichael, who wrote the song with Mitchell Parish. To his credit, Garcia has a knack for the rarified. One Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson, known as “Hutch,” was a Grenadian émigré who wound up the cream of London night life for a long while. Hutch had torrid affairs with Cole Porter and Edwina Mountbatten, among others, so what better way to commemorate him than with Porter’s “I’m a Gigolo.”

Closer to modern times, Garcia paid homage to one of the relatively few women of the genre, Barbara Carroll, who, at age 91, is still playing and singing a weekly gig at Birdland. Curiously, he failed to properly identify this “chic pianist” by name (!) but excellently played Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” in her honor. Last but not least, the quintessential singing piano man, Bobby Short, the New York icon who made the Café Carlyle his home for over three decades, was duly honored with songs such as “My Personal Property” (Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields) and “Why Don’t We Try Staying Home” (Porter).

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In what is typically a male purview, the singing pianist is more about the total package than it is about the individual parts thereof. The voice may not always be virtuosic, but the combination of talents, especially when coupled with sophistication and polish, is generally irresistible. Garcia, who can be proud of all of his assets, is not only a keeper of the keys in fact, but is a chronicler of a very important and precious art form.

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With him, the keys are in very good hands, indeed. Keeper of the Keys was produced by Sanford Fisher in association with Treble Clef LLC. Providing stellar accompaniment were music director/bassist Tom Hubbard, with Nick Russo on guitar and Howie Gordon on drums.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.