Marilyn Maye

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Marilyn Maye

Iridium, NYC, February 14, 2019

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Marilyn Maye
Photo: Kevin Alvey

Marilyn Maye has been the toast of this town for over 10 years now, and the toast across the country long before that. It’s been New York’s misfortune that we took so long to embrace her talents, but she is our superstar now, selling out cabaret shows and collecting rave reviews. What a treat to spend Valentine’s Day at her show at Iridium, listening to her buoyant salute to love with standards like “What the World Needs Now” (Burt Bacharach/Hal David) and “Let There Be Love” (Lionel Rand/Ian Grant).

Sparkling in gold, Maye infuses her songs with a singular jazz edge, and since the Iridium is one of the city’s leading jazz clubs, it’s a perfect fit for Maye’s heavy swing, bits of scat, and complex melodic thoughts.

Her phrasing is unique, turning surprisingly to new, complex directions. She has been named an Official Jazz Legend by The American Jazz Museum, and she’s earned the Jazz Heritage Award, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassador’s Award of Excellence, the Elder Statesmen of Jazz Award, and Lifetime Achievement awards from both the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and Kansas City’s CODA Jazz Fund. Ella Fitzgerald praised Maye as “the greatest white female singer in the world.

For Valentine’s Day she was swingin’ her stuff with Jeff Harris on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass, Daniel Glass on drums, and Jack Cavari on acoustic guitar, all delivering intoxicating moods on songs like “My Funny Valentine.” This Rodgers and Hart classic is often viewed as the anthem of this holiday, but Maye, wry and down to earth, admitted she seldom sings it.

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“It’s really a negative song,” she said, but she delivered it with soft poignancy.

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More melancholy for the holiday was Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Stan Rhodes, and Louis Prima’s “Sunday Kind of Love,” a mix of beauty and tears.

With only Cavari on guitar, Maye shone with “The Glory of Love” (Billy Hill) and the bossa nova rhythm of Antonio Carlos Jobim/Gene Lee’s “Corcovado.” Outstanding was the gentle sway of Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” (arrangement, as usual, by Maye). A medley from My Fair Lady included “On the Street Where You Live” with touches of scat and rhythmic twists, and “I Could Have Danced All Night” which was vibrantly upbeat. Still energetic after an hour and a quarter, Maye delivered what might be known as her theme song, “It’s Today!” from Mame, ending with a high kick and some of her own original lyrics. 

With earthy charm and a rich contralto singing about love and life, this native Kansas City bluesy jazz singer never fails to move us from laughter to tears. Marilyn Maye is a musical treasure, working and swinging with gusto and good cheer.

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sheree Sano

    This Lady is a lesson in Love – specifically, Love of the Craft of Singing – It is a joyous lesson 🙂

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