Norm Drubner: The Rainbow Connection

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Norm Drubner

The Rainbow Connection

January 29, 2016

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Norm-Drubner-The-Rainbow-Connection-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212The Rainbow Connection is volume six in Norm Drubner’s series of CDs paying homage to the American Songbook. With this latest entry, he also includes a few more contemporary selections that have become part of the tapestry he weaves, such as the title song by Paul Williams and Kenny Asher from 1979’s The Muppet Movie. With his supple baritone and laid-back delivery, Drubner croons in a style rarely heard today. A retired attorney fulfilling a lifelong love of the standards, his baritone is mellow and inviting.

His genial phrasing is cozy and unaffected. At times, he recalls a cross between Dick Haymes and Perry Como in their mature years. As in the past, bandleader/pianist Nick Bariluk’s rich arrangements perfectly enhance the singer’s very laid back style with many exceptional band solos throughout this album of chestnuts.

While many of the songs are decidedly delivered in a languid style, Drubner conveys a commitment and a warmth that is inviting and impressive. This is particularly evident on the rarely heard “You Are There” by Johnny Mandel and Dave Frishberg. This melancholic number, with piano only, is touching.

In fact, most of the cuts are quite touching; most notably 1935’s “I Wished on the Moon,” a favorite Bing Crosby sang that year on film, with Ruth Etting and Billie Holiday covering it that year, too. Here it is given a simple approach with a particularly haunting trumpet solo by Tony Kadleck, making this a standout. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” (David Mann/Bob Hilliard), which became a Sinatra classic, is given a very soft, wistful treatment. It has been recorded by other numerous singers over the years, from Billie Holiday and Johnny Mathis to Diana Krall. Here, it’s blue in a conversational manner, eschewing the drama many infuse to the already dirge-like melody.

A swinging full-band arrangement is most effective on an Irving Berlin medley fusing “You’re Easy to Dance With,” “Change Partners,” and “Cheek to Cheek.

” This is a bright, refreshing cut on a ballad-heavy album and Drubner handles it with aplomb. More of this would be welcome. Other highlights include nicely crafted entries like “I Thought About You,” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer), “My Romance” (Rodgers & Hart) and “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Cole Porter). These love ballads are nicely sung in a similar, effortless fashion that is true to the songwriters’ intentions. However, at times, there is a sameness when stringing so many similar love ditties together on the same album. Porter’s “At Long Last Love” starts slow and builds rhythmically, adding just the right touch, making this cut a high spot with another great horn solo. More of this is called for on this loyal genuflection to the standards from a singer who is a throwback to another era.

Great credit must be given to the band of excellent musicians. In addition to the aforementioned, these include: Bob Leonard (drums); Arthur Lipner (vibraphone); Henry Lugo (bass); and Chris Morrison (guitar).

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.