Ada Bird Wolfe: Birdie

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Ada Bird Wolfe


Upstairs at Vitello’s, Studio City, CA, November 15, 2018

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Ada Bird Wolfe

Ada Bird Wolfe radiates confidence when she’s on stage, and she has the chops to back up that confidence. Singing jazz makes her happy, she told the audience, and she was clearly in her comfort zone in an evening of solid jazz that doubled as a release party for her new CD, Birdie.

Backed by a sextet of top-notch musicians—she called them her “Ferraris”—Wolfe was on point in her patter as she explained why each song was important to her and how it fit into her musical development. Speaking of Thelonius Monk, Bird said she loves his dissonance, humor, passion, and romanticism, which she demonstrated with a smooth, wistful “Ask Me Now” (lyrics by Jon Hendricks) that featured beautiful phrasing and audible sighs from the audience. She was accompanied brilliantly by Doug Webb on tenor sax.

Wolfe was absolutely stunning in a performance of “Four” (Miles Davis/Hendricks), in which she kept up with the song’s demanding vocalese that left little breathing room while making it all seem very easy.

The number featured musical director Jamieson Trotter on piano, Mike Bolger on trumpet, and Webb on sax.

Sticking with Davis, Wolfe offered a soft, thoughtful take on the dissonant “All Blues,” and she added her own lyrics to Davis’ “Nardis,” singing about a young queen who longs to have a child with her never-seen midnight lover (“When daylight comes, he stays no more/All day, sitting on her throne, her fingers trace what she has known at night/Only by their touch …”).

Wolfe also wrote lyrics to Wayne Shorter’s “E.

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S.P.,” about the unspoken communication between lovers (“E.S.P. is the miracle sign/When your heart hears the message sent by mine…”), which featured solos by Trey Harris on bass and Webb on sax.

The evening included “Before the Music Stops” by Terry Trotter, father of Wolfe’s musical director (lyrics by K. Lawrence Dunham)—a melodic, romantic song that Wolfe noted is “grounded in the Great American Songbook but with twists and turns that put it in my wheelhouse.” Her performance was sweet and heartfelt as Trotter deftly caressed the keys playing his father’s song.

She was also terrific on the vocalese take by James Moody on “I’m in the Mood for Love” (Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields), and she spiced up “Lover Man” (Jimmy Davis/Roger Ramirez/James Sherman) with a Latin beat that added a joyousness to the downbeat lyrics.

The show also featured solid, consistent accompaniment from Peter Buck on drums and Nathaniel LaPointe on guitar.

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.