Ronny Whyte at St. Peter’s Church

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Ronny Whyte

St. Peter’s Church, NYC, June 11, 2014

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

ronny-whyte-cabaret-scenes-magazine-500Last Wednesday, Ronny Whyte, producer of the excellent series Midday Jazz, gave those who don’t stay up late enough for his Knickerbocker appearances a sample of prime, stylish jazz. The pianist/composer/singer’s musicianship is a combination of vintage talent, élan and sheer pleasure in his art.

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Ably joined by Boots Maleson (bass) and David Silliman (drums), Whyte offered selections as diverse as 1937’s bebop “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm,” Burt Kalmar/ Harry Ruby material, his own songs with varied lyricists, and an emotionally combustive instrumental medley of selections from Porgy and Bess, which begins with a mid-tempo, yet still languid “Summertime,” after which we move mellifluously through the show’s score. There’s a sumptuous “I Loves You, Porgy,” a ragtime interpretation of “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing,” and a version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” that feels decidedly like coloring outside the lines.

Whyte is a jazz man down to his well-shod toes, often treating beat and melody as if separate, collaborating dancers.

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Last words in a phrase have vibrato tails that linger, but don’t quite exit his throat. This is particularly apparent with romantic lyrics.

“Neverthelesssss, I’m in love with you” he sings, eyes closed above woven arpeggios. “Born to Be Blue” (Mel Tormé/Bob Wells) elicits a musically resigned shrug on the rocks. The piano sashays.

Among Whyte’s own compositions, we hear the timeless “I Love the Way You Dance” (lyric: Frank Grant) being recorded by Marlene VerPlanck next week, a lighthearted, Latin-shaded “It’s Time for Love” (lyric: Bob Levy) and a “not-quite traditional blues for the very wealthy called “The Hampton Blues” (with Jack Burns), which features contemporary quandaries like “…my maid is away for the rest of the day and I can’t find the gin” and “I can’t take mass transit to Amagansett.” We’re living in an era when words like Prozac, Botox, Cesna, and Viagra are sung. A hoot.

Ronny Whyte remains warm, dapper, polished, and nimble fingered. A savory afternoon concert.