Ronny Whyte

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Ronny Whyte

Birdland, NYC, November 30, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Ronny Whyte

With a presentation that belied calendar years in every way, singer-pianist Ronny Whyte enthralled his Birdland audience with a generous set of cool jazz and marvelously contemporized standards. Although no stranger to cabaret, Whyte’s soul is in jazz. He bookended the set with two superb swing numbers, the first, “Fine and Dandy” (Kay Swift/Paul James), a foot-tapping mood setter. The closer, Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” (Eddie Jefferson lyrics) was a fine tribute to the man and the venue named after him.

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Both numbers featured outstanding solos by Whyte’s A-list sidemen: Boots Maleson (bass); John Hart (guitar); and Taro Okamoto (drums). Okamoto, a percussionist with plenty of rhythm and a delicate touch, also shone on a solo feature in Whyte’s version of Oscar Pettiford’s post-bop “Bohemia After Dark.” Whyte has also been arranging and composing for some time, with tuneful melodies (his) and variable lyrics (others). His “I Love the Way You Dance” (with Frank Grant) was an enjoyable example in its light swing arrangement.

Like many singing piano men, Whyte is a sophisticate at home at the keys. Unlike many of them, with vocal abilities overshadowed by playing skills, he excels equally at both—so much so that he abandons the piano for several numbers.

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Letting the band carry the musical weight, he sings with a sure, easy confidence. The Jay Livingston/Ray Evans ballad “Never Let Me Go” showcases Whyte as a crooner with a relaxed style reminiscent of the legendary ease of Perry Como. Despite the vocal diminishment that age brings, Whyte holds his own with impeccable phrasing.

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His numbers are charmingly outside the box and allow him to play to his strength of interpreting the lyric. Highlights included a playful, delightful “That’s What I Thought You Said” (Teddy McRae) and “That’s My Style” (Cy Coleman/Peggy Lee). Much of the evening could be summed up in “Haunted Heart” (Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz), with its subtle bossa beat. The American Songbook, both old and expanded, will never die with a talent like Ronny Whyte to keep it fresh.

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Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Akke

    A wonderful talent, a great person!

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