Nicole Zuraitis

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Nicole Zuraitis

Birdland, NYC, August 2, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Nicole Zuraitis
Photo: Lindsey Victoria Photography

Nicole Zuraitis is a vivacious jazz pianist and vocalist, somewhat reminiscent in style of the young Ann Hampton Callaway. When she is playing extended instrumental passages, she loses herself in the music, and then, with a flip of her hair and a quick smile, she reengages the audience.
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Her taste in songs is wildly eclectic, exemplified by her blend of two different works named “Guilty”—one by Richard Whiting, Harry Akst, and Gus Kahn from 1931 and one by Randy Newman from 1974.
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Zuraitis also writes her own songs, including a delightful salute to her husband, “I Like You a Latte.”

Hubby Dan Pugach was also her own on-stage drummer, and she deliciously flirted with him throughout the show. Also providing major musical support were dazzling guitarist Hugh Stuckey and bassist Ed Perez. The four musicians formed a cohesive group, listening to each other, tossing the melodies back and forth, and each claiming their own moments to shine.

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Two things would improve future engagements for Zuraitis. Certain segments blended together very well (a trio of disparate numbers were identified as “I-just-started-to-listen-to-the-radio-and-now-I’m-singing-everything-I-hear-at-Birdland”: “Omar Shariff,” “When Lights Are Low,” and “But Not For Me”—the latter an unlikely showcase for Pugach. But, there was no real theme or concept tying the evening together. Variety is lovely, but binding the evening together would be even more satisfying. The other point is that on the above-mentioned medley and during certain other numbers, Zuraitis served as a vocalist and barely played the piano, letting her fellow musicians carry the instrumentals. And yet, she didn’t move away from the keyboard to claim center stage. She possesses such a lovely presence and delightful personality that it is a great loss that she doesn’t let it all fly free and remains trapped behind the instrument.

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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."