Danny Bacher: An Evening of Johnny Mercer

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Danny Bacher

An Evening of Johnny Mercer

Beach Cafe, NYC, May 12, 2018

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Danny Bacher:
Photo: John Abbott

Danny Bacher has talent coming at him from two directions, a delight that adds up to more than the sum of the parts. He plays the soprano sax (a sometimes unforgiving instrument) with masterful musicality, and also sings with a pleasing honeyed tone.

He’s real and refreshing, a relaxed performer of great natural charm. These abilities served him well with patter that was sensibly kept to a minimum and allowed for a modicum of shtick. The humor was appreciated in clever, au courant lyrics (by Bacher) to the Richard Whiting/Johnny Mercer chestnut, “Hooray for Hollywood.” Over all, in celebrating the genius of Johnny Mercer, and with a large palette to choose from, Bacher’s selections were mostly familiar ones, with a few oddities thrown in for color, such as “Drinking Again” and “G.I. Jive.”

Bacher is a jazzman at heart. He kept the sax playing to a minimum, but he’s too good a musician to sacrifice this art to the mostly singing cabaret form.

When he entered jazz territory, he was on home ground, scatting to “I’m an Old Cowhand,” a hit for Bing Crosby in 1936 when he was still a jazz singer, and “Satin Doll.” Bacher’s phrasing is impeccable and, as with many singing musicians, follows closely to his horn technique, evident in a superb “I Remember You.” He also brought “Midnight Sun” back to its jazz roots (it began as a jazz instrumental before Mercer set a lyric to it).
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Bacher’s jazz background was also apparent in “Skylark,” done in jazz waltz time, and “I Thought About You” as a blues.
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But, if there’s truth to the concept that there can be too much of a good thing, Bacher inched into that territory with a long show; several numbers could have been cut, especially when, taken as a whole, a preponderance of material was delivered in the same tempo. Even the jazz pieces could have stood a bit more hard swing. Special guest KT Sullivan took the mic for two numbers: a sweet “I’m Old Fashioned” and a beautiful, evocative rendition of “When the World Was Young” (“Ah, the Apple Trees”). On the eighty-eights was the gifted jazz pianist Janice Friedman, whose creative musical ideas and adept playing wove in and out of Bacher’s delivery in counterpoint, as well as playing skillfully when support was called for.

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.