Laura Ainsworth: New Vintage

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Laura Ainsworth

New Vintage

(Electus Records)

October 5, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Laura Ainsworth is in love with old songs. Not just the classic American songbook, but those works that (often unaccountably) slipped out of the bindings after only a recording or two and were basically forgotten.

And so, on her most recent album, New Vintage, we find names such as Loesser, Mercer, and Fain, though most likely don’t recognize the titles. And then there are songs by less likely folks such as Sylvia Fine and children’s books legend Shel Silverstein.

The singer lets these delicious discoveries do the heavy lifting as she offers a relaxed style and a pliable soprano voice that offers up the lyrics clearly and simply. Of course, this thrown-off style hides imagination and intelligence, so that the better-known selections have a spirit of discovery. “I’ll Take Romance” gets an upbeat jazz waltz treatment, and hear how she literally hurries the lyrics “I’ll rush to my first romance” ahead of the music. And she blends together “Long Ago and Far Away” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream” to convey the discovery of new romance (there is a breathless pause following the repeated “you” in the second song that conveys just how the singer is feeling about her new man).

Ainsworth gravitates toward the slightly raised eyebrow sexy lyrics that convey humor and a healthy libido, whether with a tropical island feel—“An Occasional Man” (Ralph Blane/Hugh Martin); a big band bounce—“Nothing Can Replace a Man” (Sammy Fain/Dan Shapiro); or a ‘70s rollicking disco—“I Once Knew a Fella” (Silverstein), compete with down and dirty horn work by Chris McGuire.

The artist’s father was Billy Ainsworth, a well-respected musician in the glory days of Las Vegas big bands, and is clearly a musical inspiration for her.

She even works in a lyrical tribute to him in the gently swinging, and seductive (for us romantics), “Where Did the Magic Go?

” (P.J. Erickson/Buddy Weed). It also shows in the top-notch arrangements featured on the album and the dandy musicians playing them.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."