Eric Yves Garcia: This Is All I Ask: The Songs of Tony Bennett

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Eric Yves Garcia

This Is All I Ask: The Songs of Tony Bennett

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, August 16, 2018

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Eric Yves Garcia
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Eric Yves Garcia is an immensely likeable stage presence. He’s relaxed, humorous, self-effacing, sincere, and born to wear a tux. It’s clear the performer admires his tribute subject for all the right reasons. We’re told this is not to be a biographical evening, but rather one where selections stand on their own. “Tony Bennett dedicated his life to the most exalted material he could get his hands on.” Except for a few warm anecdotes, that holds true.

“I’ve Got the World on a String” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler) arrives with long-limbed phrasing and strolling piano. “The Good Life” (Sacha Distel/Jack Reardon) begins reflective and morphs into romantic. Garcia is a good balladeer when so inclined. Emotional sweetness shines through. The lyric, “explore the unknown,” vocally arcs as if he’s doing just that.

“Solitude” (Duke Ellington/Eddie De Lange) showcases a blue tone at which the performer excels. More songs like this, please. Unfortunately, we hear barely a snippet during one of several overstuffed medleys, each song offering no more than that, with neither transition nor bridge between. Garcia calls Frank Sinatra’s recording of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” (George and Ira Gershwin) “defiant.
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” With Bennett’s rendition, he discovered the verse which colors his own.
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The number arrives as easy as a swinging hammock, almost a croon.

 “Once Upon a Summertime” (Michel Legrand/Eddie Barclay/Johnny Mercer) and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” (Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman) gently glow. With few exceptions, Garcia does slower, more sentimental numbers more successfully. This has something to do with affinity but is more, I think, related to the coordination with the piano accompaniment, which tends to sound like staccato jazz when sped up. I, for one, often prefer him with someone else at the keys.

The iconic “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (George Cory/Douglass Cross) is coupled with “I Wanna Be Around” (Sadie Vimmerstedt/Johnny Mercer). Apparently, Bennett was sure the second song was the destined hit, when, in fact, the former rose to be his signature. Both are well handled here. Garcia imbues “San Francisco” with palpable affection, “Around” with sass and rhythm.

Speaking of affection, “For Once in My Life” (Ron Miller/Orlando Murden) is so obviously personal, one doesn’t need to know, as I later discover, the performer’s lady friend is among us. Garcia virtually enacts the lyric. An a cappella encore of “Because of You” is simply lovely.

The number of songs in this show could be cut by one third without damage. Too much gets short shrift.

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.