Tammy McCann: I Got Rhythm: An Evening of Gershwin

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Tammy McCann

I Got Rhythm: An Evening of Gershwin

Pangea, NYC, June 29, 2018

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Tammy McCann
Photo: Mary Rafferty

You’d never believe Chicago’s Tammy McCann came late to jazz after classical training. The vocalist has the kind of seemingly casual ease, control, and instinct one associates with Ella Fitzgerald. She seems pure bred to the genre. For this show, the personable vocalist frames songs of George and Ira Gershwin with the evolution of a relationship. She’s charmingly candid without overstating. Every selection fits the chronicle—no square pegs in round holes here.

“Let’s start with I really want to fall in love…” prefaces “Somebody Loves Me.” McCann steps from side to side leaning forward towards her audience. She actually sounds tickled. A luxurious “I’ve Got a Crush on You” follows, swaying with broadly sighed syllables. Vibrato ripples as if her heart gives off heat. Notes emerge palpably malleable, here wide, there narrow, without a quiver in transition.

“A Foggy Day” is mid-tempo jazz. McCann has the ability to swing within melodic parameters never sacrificing lyrical intention. From the waist up, bassist Mimi Jones is all in. Repartee turns to early days with the vocalist’s husband-to-be. “’S Wonderful” sashays in on bossa nova. Russell Carter’s percussion is light and deft. “It’s mi-i-igh-tee-nicccee…” McCann sings, playing with delivery of repeating phrases. It’s a posh country club arrangement with concert quality vocal.

Slow and savored, “Do It Again” finds the singer reliving her experience. The song is not its usual flirty self, but rather hushed and focused, captivating, dreamy. Brushes circle, bass keeps muted time. “And oh my gosh, the first kiss was perfect…and then here comes that naysayer girlfriend…What kind of job does he have? Isn’t he kind of short?” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” is vivacious swing.

“She feels love has passed her by and misery loves company….” McCann continues referring to the so-called friend. “But Not for Me” begins backed only by bass and percussion, a terrific sound that should’ve remained instead of swelling. Nor do I comprehend encouraging the room to clap, or smiling during a number with these lyrics.

“The Man I Love” is beautifully understated, authentically blue. Again, temperance enhances. There’s no agonized volume, no manifest sob. Feelings remain credible. But the girlfriend has influence. “So he asks you out and you grudgingly go finding fault.” Nose crinkled, brow furrowed, McCann offers an ambivalent “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and a resolved, though breezy “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” dancing a little in place.

A rendition of “Embraceable You” that seems to bear history, and an infectiously happy “Love Is Here to Stay” cement the relationship. McCann’s encore is an almost a cappella “Summertime”—again, low-key real, that morphs into adroitly phrased mambo.

The only thing wrong with this show is, alas, its pianist, TW Samples. The musician lacks not only finesse but, astonishingly I’m told, familiarity with the iconic numbers, and plays as if in his own show. McCann assures me he’ll be replaced going forward.

This talented lady is well worth seeing/hearing.

McCann’s next date in her Pangea Residency: 7/26/18 in Duke & Stray Together Again~An Evening of Ellington & Strayhorn

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.