Sheree Sano: Live Acts

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Sheree Sano

Live Acts

February 11, 2019

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

If singers are the engines of nightclubs, then singer-pianists are the mapmakers who steer the ship. Manhattan after dark is filled with surveyors whose creative desk is the piano. Aside from being a one-man band, they’re often the band leaders whose job it is to please a noisy crowd.

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Welcome, Sheree Sano and her endless cache of songs and a history with every kind of audience.

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With her latest live album, culled from various local clubs, she steps away from behind the piano and takes center stage. While she repeatedly shines, on occasion, her accompanists are just a bit heavy-handed where subtlety is called for, and a few passages drown out her nuances and her terrific vocals. These are only some of the risks involved in recording live CDs. Still, her understanding of a lyric, her restraint where needed, her seasoned phrasing, and most of all, her keen knowledge of how to develop and unfold the songwriter’s intent coupled with her life experience, override any technical hiccups.

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That said, there’s a lot more to be said about the lady and her music.

There’s something wonderful about the unsung heroes who sing the American classics in the upscale and dusty rooms of Manhattan night after night. Often, they pop up in piano bars or cabaret rooms with their solo shows. In the case of Sheree Sano, she has done both as well as blow away a room in the Mama’s Next BIG Act! contest at Don’t Tell Mama, where she can effortlessly rivet a room with a temperate “Losing My Mind” phrased as if Sondheim wrote it just for her. She has an expansive repertoire of golden oldies that are crowd pleasers. What’s more, this composer and writer has several self-produced CDs brimming with sad and glad evergreens and Broadway and pop favorites, along with some crafty, well-written originals (worthy of attention by any singer looking for something unique to spice up their act). She has also had an impressive international career performing throughout the capitals of Europe and in Mexico’s top niteries. This hidden treasure is an intelligent, humble lady and a refreshing treat to anyone who enjoys a personalized touch added to lived-in lyrics sung by a master storyteller in song. The proof is in the pudding on this latest, eclectic album, Live Acts

The 24-cut CD is ripe with classics such as “What a Wonderful World,” “My Romance,” “When October Goes,” “The Summer Knows,” “People,” “My Favorite Year,” “A Song for You,” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light” to name a handful. All are sung in her smoky mezzo with various accompanists. Her greatest gift is her ability to personalize a lyric without over-embellishing it or screeching. For instance, on Jerry Herman’s “Song on the Sand” (La Cage aux Folles) with multi-talented Will TN Hall at the piano, she conveys a wistful, simple feeling of young love that’s engaging. On “So Close” (Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz) from the film Enchanted, with Steven Ray Watkins on piano, she takes the listener on a heartfelt journey that resonates sans Disney schmaltz. John Bucchino’s “Grateful” (also with Watkins), is a prayer-like appreciation delivered with honesty.

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Space does not allow conversation about some terrific original songs. But it would be a crime not to mention “Blue December” with Matthew Martin Ward offering another supple accompaniment on this heartbreaker that so deserves to be heard: “if only I could hold you now I’d never let you go/but the plans we made are fading now like footprints in the snow/it’ll be a blue December if we stay apart/only you can put together what’s left of my heart.” This is not just a well-written melancholy ballad, it’s a trenchant beauty and a serious highlight on this album by a lady with a lot of talent.   

Sondheim’s “With So Little to Be Sure Of” in a subtle arrangement by Ward (who is at the piano), wraps the album up with flair and says it all: “can’t complain about the time we’re given/with so little to be sure of in this world/we have this moment, this marvelous moment.” In the end, Sheree Sano is something quite wonderful and has a lot to be sure of.

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John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sheree Sano

    Dear John – Thank you SO MUCH for this absolutely lovely review!! I feel like you really “get” me and what I’m always trying to do when I sing. I’m HONORED beyond words and, because I know the depths of your understanding.of vocal music in performance, I’m very humbled too… Thank you very, very much 🙂 <3 Sheree

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