Bob Levy: Why Wait

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Bob Levy with Perry Danos

Why Wait?

(Silk River Music)

June 24, 2020

Reviewed by John Hoglund

Over the past decade, the bounty of songs written by Bob Levy has been rich. His impressive oeuvre comprises an array of ardent songs of heartbreak and passion that are rooted in jazz and have a pronounced cabaret slant. It is the stuff of schmaltzy nostalgia with a snap—like so many standards of yore. Most of the work is consists of tales from the heart, often with big-band/swing arrangements that move and a lushness that recalls another decade. His CDs have been recognized by MAC and ASCAP, and he’s merited awards and nominations in the Outstanding Album categories more than once. His collaboration with Nicolas King on “Best as I Can” (2019) and the 2014 Joyce Breach recording of “He Remembers, She Remembers” (a collaboration with Alex Rybeck) were Song of the Year nominees from MAC. The body of his work clearly tips its hat to the Great American Songbook; the influence is repeatedly obvious. He has worked with fellow songwriters including cabaret mainstay Ronny Whyte, the respected singer/pianist/songwriter, as well as bassist John Burr, legendary composer/pianist Tex Arnold, and Australian singer/songwriter Karen Jacobsen. Along with an impressive roster of acclaimed cabaret favorites over the years that include Dane Vannatter, Barbara Brussell, La Tanya Hall, Marcus Goldhaber, Sue Matsuki, Vincent Wolfe, Laurie Krauz, and Lynn Stein. His work has been featured on radio, television and film (You Again with Betty White).

With this new release, Why Wait? (available online only), he takes a leap that is relevant and expands his talents with verve. This 2020 MAC nominated album contains some worthy gems that echo songwriters from the past—Sammy Cahn for example. If this were the 1950s, he would be listed among the major songwriters of that embarrassingly rich musical era. Here, he gives charmed songs an old-fashioned spin with the gentle ballads “I Should Go Home” and “Why Pretend.” The latter is a transcendent highlight that is ideal. It’s a vintage style, smoky 11-o-clock number about love lost that one could imagine Sinatra embracing with ease the way he once poured himself into “I’m a Fool to Want You”—“fool me once, fool me twice, love isn’t just some roll of the dice, treat me good, treat me kind, baby, don’t drive me out of my mind.”

All vocals on the disc are provided by Perry Danos, an old-school crooner who echoes Dick Haymes and Tony Bennett. He is savvy on the terrific swing arrangements that he handles with brio. He cradles tender moments with a seasoned warmth that sets him apart.

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Other high spots include: “Look at What Love’s Done to Me,” “Can’t Get Started,” “Between My Broken Heart and You,” and the album’s title cut, “Why Wait.” In between some rhythmic up-tempo numbers and several wistful ballads that sting, lies a sweet mix of songs well worth hearing on an album that can easily become a favorite in any cabaret collection.

The exceptional band couldn’t be better; there are many instrumental solos that are real highlights and sparkle throughout. In the band are Jamey Whiting (piano an arrangements), Penn Pennington and Andy Reiss (guitar), John Vogt (bass), and Ray Von Rotz (drums).

John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.