Jackie Gibson: Songs of the Brill Building

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Jackie Gibson

Songs of the Brill Building

Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, West Hollywood, CA, June 10, 2016

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Jackie-Gibson-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212It was a grand night for singing when Jackie Gibson and some talented friends got together to perform the songs of the composers and lyricists working out of New York’s vaunted Brill Building from the late 1950s through the 1960s. What made the night even grander was the audience’s spontaneous reaction to these familiar pop tunes — singing along from the outset, without any initial prompting, and knowing exactly when to chime in on the refrains.  No one on either side of the microphone missed a single beat.

The love-fest began with the first song — “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (Marvin Hamlisch/Howard Liebling) — and it never stopped, as people consistently oohed and aahed as they recognized the songs from their introductions and simply joined in.  Gibson acknowledged the response at one point, saying,  “It’s great hearing your voices and feeling the joy I feel.”

Gibson’s voice is soft, sweet and inviting, and she was in total control throughout the show, particularly on a sincere, committed  “Up on the Roof” and “One Fine Day” (both by Carole King and Gerry Goffin).  She also delivered smooth versions of “Downtown” (Tony Hatch) and “Dream Lover” (Bobby Darin), offered a sweet take on “Spanish Harlem” (Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector), an energetic punch on “Da Doo Ron Ron” (Jeff Barry/Spector/Ellie Greenwich), and an emotive, nicely modulated “Where the Boys Are” (Neil Sedaka/Howard Greenfield).

Guest Brenda Silas Moore was warm and mesmerizing on a full-throated, emotional  “What a Wonderful World” (George David Weiss/Bob Thiele) and demonstrated smooth, round tones on “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (King/Goffin), while Wayne Moore sang both hit versions of Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” with a tender, easy-going style on the original ballad arrangement and a swinging take on the subsequent more up-tempo arrangement.

Gibson’s other guest was Larry Davis, who added his own distinctive funky take to “Love Potion No. 9” (Leiber & Mike Stoller) and sizzled and swiveled his way through a jazzy version of “All Shook Up” (Otis Blackwell/Elvis Presley).

Besides singing the songs, the performers related stories about how some of them came to be written, and they talked about the dynamics within the Brill Building itself, where moving up from floor to floor got the composers and lyricists closer to having their songs recorded.  Gibson was effective on “Is That All There Is?” (Leiber & Stoller), using it to illustrate the end of the Brill era as the songwriters grew up and moved on “and, without knowing it, helped change society’s attitudes,” she pointed out.

Backing the singers was Steve Rawlins on piano as musical director  — who conceived the show and provided beautiful arrangements — with dynamic drumming from Nick Vincent and strong support on bass from Steve Deutsch.

  Keri Kelsey helped shape the evening as creative consultant.

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.