Hilary Kole: In a Sentimental Mood: Songs of Love and Longing

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Hilary Kole

In a Sentimental Mood: Songs of Love and Longing

The Iridium, NYC, February 12, 2019

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Hilary Kole

Hilary Kole has an intimate relationship with jazz. Music visibly courses through her body, which is always in motion. Graceful arms extend as if impelled; fingers play the air and microphone stand. Hips roll; she dances. The sum total is warmly infectious rather than distracting. Kole draws us in without posturing. We feel like voyeurs.

A unique arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” showcases the vocalist’s ability to change a note or an octave, elongating or emphasizing without harming the integrity of a song. Kole sways; her eyes close. John Hart’s guitar embroiders.

“Do you like this tempo?” she asks swinging her hips, snapping her fingers. “I’m looking for dirty.” “I like cake/And no mistake/But baby, if you insist/I’ll cut out cake/Just for your sake/Baby, c’mon knock me a kiss.” (“Knock Me a Kiss/Mike Jackson). Vibrato extends; eyebrows rise. “I like jam and no flim flam,” she sings, suggestively running a hand through her thick mane.

Paul Williams/Ivan Lins/Gilson Peranzetta’s “Love Dance” arrives as a rippling bossa nova.

  The lyric is intoxicating. Kole mooooves. (The room chair dances.) Scat emerges resonant as plucked strings. “Chance” has five syllables. Hush comes over the number like thick morning mist.

“Isn’t that the sexiest song ever?” she gushes.

With the iconic “’Round Midnight” (Thelonious Monk) the performer grows serious, soulful. Brushes circle, bass goes low, piano flickers like streetlight in puddles; guitar interprets mood on its own terms. Vocal notes are kneaded. Control is pristine. Whether open-throated or hushed, nothing frays. “I’ve been waiting many years to get that low F,” Kole comments, telling us she tried smoking at 14 in order to achieve it. This is an old soul.

Duke Ellington’s classic “In a Sentimental Mood” (lyrics: Benjamin Frutchey) unwraps that wowza voice with only guitar shadowing. (A welcome rarity.) Kole’s back-of-throat vibrato elongates musing. The number sighs deeply. “I was always so in love with that melody. It’s also, in my chick-singer opinion, the hardest song in the world to sing.” (Reviewer’s note: you have to be that good.)

Kole sits at the piano to sing and play “Softly, as I Leave You” (Tony DeVita): “For my heart would break if you should wake and see me go,” and “Nobody’s Heart Belongs to Me” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart). Accompaniment is lush, textured. The first (solo) tiptoes in a dark house. The second exposes a melancholy heart to light. Instruments join in mossy layers. Kole invests her whole self. Beautiful.

“Make Me Rainbows” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman/John Williams, yes that John Williams) begins with bass. Hands rise, fingers splay; Kole bounces. It’s a carbonated, zip-a-dee-doo-dah vocal. Instruments playfully surge and dodge.

Tonight’s encore, by request, is appropriately Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” Kole takes the microphone out of its stand. Even if we didn’t know her husband was in attendance, the song would sound personal. Music is massaged between lyrics. Guitar quivers. A wellspring is plumbed.

My single caveat is a fusillade version of Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing for You(Would Be Me)” that so rushes; neither tune nor meaning survive.

With John Hart (guitar), Adam Birnbaum (piano), Paul Gill (bass), and Aaron Kimmel (drums).

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.