Ronny Whyte: Shades of Whyte

| May 19, 2017

Ronny Whyte

Shades of Whyte

Birdland, NYC, May 18, 2017

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Ronny Whyte Photo: Robert York

Asked once where he was from, Ronny Whyte responded, “The past.” A torch bearer for songs with nimble lyrics and engaging melodies, the multi-skilled musician embodies style, taste, and understatement. That he does so evoking nostalgia without ever sounding dated is a testimony to both talent and material. Singers alert: It should be noted that many of tonight’s numbers (also on the CD), which sound like American Songbook standards, were written by Whyte and others in the course of the last few years. Check them out!

Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner’s “Too Late Now” arrives slow and reflective. Elongated phrases have gauzy edges. Whyte sighs the lyric. Muted trumpet embellishes. “Darling, no,” he sings, raising his eyebrows, “I can’t anymore….” A lovely, winsome “Nina Never Knew” (Louis Alter/Milton Drake) finds the guitar embracing sentimentality while Whyte’s delicate vocal emerges humble and appreciative. A smile hovers.

“I used to do this for Al regularly, so he wrote the verse for me,” Whyte tells us introducing “Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues” (Al Byron/Woody Harris). “They say that people judge you by the friends you choose/Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues.” It’s a sexy rendition with burlesque bass, stealthy sax segueing into a sassy, wide-hipped solo, and low slung, soulful piano. “Suh-hum of my best friends…” Whyte sings.

Charming carnivale music includes: “It’s Time for Love” (Ronny Whyte/Bob Levy), an infectiously lighthearted number that hitches a ride on the playful spirit of a skibbling, twirling flute; and a weaving of “A Little Samba” (Duncan Lamont) with “So Danco Samba” (Lamont/Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes) that offers fragrant vocal, dip-diving flute, bright, colorful trumpet, and guitar riffs like streamers in the wind. (Partially in Portuguese!)

Leaving the piano, Whyte, whose voice is as fine as his musicianship, performs a fond “I Love the Way You Dance”(Ronny White/Frank Grant) as if every word were a caress; “I’ll Close My Eyes” (Billy Reid/Buddy Kaye), just a shadow of Latin in the arrangement, even consonants tip toeing; and “Linger Awhile” (Whyte/Roger Schore)—”…Watching the shadows dance on the ceiling/Are they as happy as I’m feeling?…”— savoring the vision, notes, emotion. “Now that I’ve found you/Why must you run?”; he looks perplexed.

“Love Me Tomorrow” (Vernon Duke/John Latouche) is the warning of an insouciant character, a rogue. Take-it-or-leave-it trumpet, clean, tart guitar licks, and Whyte’s selective, explanatory gestures (the first of these) make the song a scene. “I’ll Tell You What” (Whyte), with rhymes like “hit-cha/bit-cha” and terms like “sweetie pie,” is the epitome of ’60s hip. “Here I am, ready or not/You can never say I didn’t tell you what….” The lyrics are tight and wry, horn is arch. It takes an artist intimate with “cool” to tender this with an innate shrug.

Whyte genially provides a few anecdotes, but perhaps his most personal choice is his own lush, “Blame It on the Movies”:  “If I expect to find romance/With love scenes underscored/Blame it on the movies….” Who hasn’t experienced these feelings? If this were a music video, it would be black and white. It’s a rueful, looking back song.

The evening hits a sweet spot again and again. Ronny Whyte continues to captivate.

Whyte’s first class band includes Boots Maleson (bass), Lou Caputo (tenor sax/flute), Alex Nguyen (trumpet), Sean Harkness (guitar), David Silliman (drums). (It’s a pleasure to see a bandstand of men in suits and ties.) With the addition of  Mauricio De Souza, this is the group that plays on the excellent CD. I can’t wait.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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