Maurice Hines and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra: Tappin’ Through Life

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Maurice Hines and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra

Tappin’ Through Life

Feinstein’s/54Below, NYC, June 7, 2019        

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

jpg” alt=”” width=”212″ height=”212″ /> Maurice Hines

Maurice Hines—dancer/choreographer/director/actor—is utterly charming. One might compare his singing style to Fred Astaire’s; Hines presents the essence of a song in his own inimitable, elegant style. An appealing back-end hum, a pinch of sand, and infectious pleasure are signatures.

The “Tappin” in this title is metaphoric. Only one brief dance turn—at which we frankly marvel—is offered. His veteran legs blatantly ignore chronological age.
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Tap lessons began when he was five years old. His reputation as a dancer was established with his father and brother under the name “Hines, Hines, and Dad.” He then developed a multifaceted solo career, intermittently performing with his brother Gregory.

“I’ve Never Been in Love Before” arrives up-tempo with unfortunately loud accompaniment. When The DIVA Jazz Orchestra opens up (throughout the show), they drown out Hines’ unstressed performance. His right hand snaps, his right leg keeps time. The music passes through the sinewy body like breath. It’s ebullient.

We’re told the great Joe Williams taught Maurice and his brother to sing while they were backstage at the Apollo Theater. He offers “Everybody Has the Blues” in tribute. “Awwww” the orchestra responds. Without the brass, we hear him swing. Hines bounces and side steps. Everyone claps in time.

A captivating story about his parents’ resolution to an argument is topped (like a cherry) by “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your (Her) Face.” Hines weaves the lyric into his mother’s reaction—between mashing potatoes—to her husband’s serenade. While the brothers were playing the all-black Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas, Tallulah Bankhead introduced them to “girlfriend” Lena Horne. “Honeysuckle Rose,” backed by a very cool bass, brushes, and light piano recollects that friendship.

Frank Sinatra caught the brothers opening for Ella Fitzgerald and invited them to his show. “He looked just like Frank Sinatra. That guy got charisma.” We feel the youthful awe. An iconic Don Costa arrangement of “Come Fly with Me” is warm, animated. Hines has balletic hands. “When Somebody Loves You” follows. The man could sell swampland if it were musicalized. “It’s no good unless they need you,” he sings, raising one finger.

With a nod to the musical Sophisticated Ladies, a medley of Ellington songs is played by the orchestra. “In my entire life, I only wanted to be one man—Nat King Cole,” Hines says.
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“It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Smile,” and “L-O-V-E” are captivating. Though the bassist, sax player, and drummer excel, the orchestra fares better as accompanists when it is muted.

The artist connects with his audience, looking people in the eye, registering faces. “My mother always said, thank them, they don’t have to be here.” “You’re Just Too Marvelous,” with only piano, is balladic, sincere, sweet.

Maurice Hines is and likely always was a class act.

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.