The Best of Spider Saloff
Pangea, NYC, March 8, 2017
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes
If there is anything negative to say about the glorious Spider Saloff, it’s that this jazz diva of impeccable musicality does not perform in New York City often enough. Lucky those in Chicagoland, where she’s based. Saloff knows how to put on a show and leave ’em begging for more—which is exactly what happened at the end of this outing at Pangea. After completing her set with a poetic interpretation of Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (sung as a love song – 180 degrees away from the Ethel Merman style of belting brashness), Saloff was brought back to the stage by a relentlessly applauding audience. With a delightful and unplanned “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” (George and Ira Gershwin), she was finally allowed to cap off an evening of her favorite songs. It was a repertoire delivered with heart and with a fine regard for nuance. Saloff can belt, but why should she? This diva knows from deep within that the power of music isn’t in how loud it is, but in the wisdom with which the words and music are presented.
What truly sets Saloff apart from the crowd is her empathy: she feels the song; she becomes the song. And she is willing to go into that territory of intense emotion. Her fearlessness in giving herself to a number yields a rare authenticity and truth, as with her renditions of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” (Tommy Wolf/Fran Landesman) and her own very personal “Deep Inside the Rain.” Yet, the set was well balanced, with jazzy upbeat numbers, including “Deed I Do” (Fred Rose/Walter Hirsch), “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Cole Porter), and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Berlin) set to a foot-tapping Latin beat.
Saloff not only has a bright, personable and natural way on the stage, but her easy narrative provides context and texture to the music — plus, she’s funny. Her comic timing made Porter’s “Tale of the Oyster” and Berlin’s “naughty” “You’d Be Surprised!” two delightful treats. With Musical Director, pianist and “partner in crime,” Ricky Ritzel, a counter-intuitive, lazy start to “The Joint Is Jumpin’” (Thomas Waller/Andy Razaf/J.C. Johnson) brought big laughs. Ritzel, Saloff’s long-time collaborator, shares an easy, comfortable chemistry with the singer. It’s also a pleasure to hear his sprightly artistry on the keys, matching Saloff’s variety and eclecticism note for note. Spider Saloff puts her own stamp on the music, and that’s the kind of intelligent, creative artistry that sets the gold standard for any kind of live entertainment.