Curtis Stigers with The Birdland Big Band

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Curtis Stigers with The Birdland Big Band

Birdland, NYC, May 14,2019

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Curtis Stigers

There’s a special thrill to be had when a big band opens up and swings, and that was the case in spades with the Birdland Big Band as they showed their stuff, with musical direction by David Dejesus. If that weren’t enough, gigging with them was the featured performer of the evening, Curtis Stigers, a versatile singer-songwriter who hit it big in the early 1990s with a slew of his own works, including “Never Saw a Miracle” (performed in this set).

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Stigers is smoothly confident and sexily charismatic. He’s got plenty of talent, charm, and wit, and a penchant for casual, sly comedy. He’s also unafraid to play with a song. His “You’ve Got the Fever” with its mambo beat, was one lively example as was “I Get a Kick Out of You,” with its cleverly adjusted lyric: “I get no kick from Coltrane… even one riff, it would bore me terrifically too.”

Stigers’ voice has attained some grit in his maturity, but it suits him, as does the angular good looks so reminiscent of Chet Baker in his salad days. What has taken on particular maturity is his soulfulness. It permeates his delivery, frequently with a blues underpinning, as in his “I Wonder Why.” He’s also an accomplished saxophonist, playing a few bars on this number, as well as on the jaunty “Hooray for Love.

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” And like a lot of singers who also play instruments, his rhythm and phrasing is often informed by that particular musicality. He performed “The Best Is Yet to Come” with a little scat and a lot of swing, and offered a Sinatra-based gaggle of numbers––“Come Fly with Me,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” to name a few––with zip. He shared that what he likes best about Sinatra is his storytelling ability. It’s a skill Stigers possesses, too. His delivery of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” and a slow, poignant “Don’t Worry About Me” were authentic and moving. What’s thrilling to contemplate is that this show only scratched the surface of Stigers’ versatility. Truly, he’s too marvelous for words.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.