Aisha de Haas: A Song for You

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Aisha de Haas

A Song for You

Birdland, NYC, July 1, 2019

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Aisha de Haas

When Natalie Douglas opened Birdland Theater not with one of her signature Tribute shows, but rather with “a hodge-podge of songs,” Aisha de Haas tells us she had a eureka moment. This show is the result: a compilation of “the songs and singers that have had the greatest influence on me.”

Both de Haas’s home (her mother was a singer, her father a bassist) and community were fortuitously filled with music. In “A Song for You” she hears her mother’s voice: “And when my life is over/Remember when we were together/We were alone/And I was singing this song to you.” Her performance is understated, tender.

“Just Squeeze Me” begins with Saadi Zain’s firm, yet pliant bass, as if the instrument were raising its eyebrows.
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MD/pianist Jon Weber grins. De Haas keeps her voice light, flirty. She has a talent for exercising restraint without letting the sound become meager and for being expansive without undue volume.
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Her exploration of the classic songbook began in college with “More Than You Know,” sung here with a stroked bass, circling brushes, and lush piano accompaniment. De Haas really seems to be musing. From romantic to jazzy (with expert, terpsichorean piano) and back, her vibrato is a velvet hum.

Latin music is represented by “Like a Lover” and “The Island” swaying in with curled, cursive sss. First the left hand, then the right, finger the air as if she were playing a horn.  De Haas appears carefree, happy. Head back, she closes her eyes, then returns to us, sharing. The last note flickers out like a flame. Weber’s piano grows mellow with a lovely rendition of “Ask Me Now.” De Haas speaks to us conversationally with barely an apparent breath enabling long notes.

To my mind this evening’s highlight is a combination of “Yesterday” and “Yesterday When I Was Young,” using de Haas’ own very original arrangement. She delivers the first with rueful gravitas making it all the more effective. Like a breeze through dangling leaves, the piano shepherds in the second song. The bass vibrates; cymbals murmur. Poignancy segues into foxtrot. “Ev’ry con-ver-saaa-tion” de Haas sings, kneading notes carefully as if fragile.

“Minute by Minute” and “Love for Sale” are somewhat muddy, a barrage of textured sound burying lyric intention. The latter, however, is notable as a showcase for Rodney Ruckas, whose drum work, fast as hummingbird wings, is nonetheless emphatic and precise. One can only imagine this musician let loose with a big band.

We close with a swing version of “Now or Never”: “You can’t leave me on the shelf/You gotta commit yourself/It’s either you will baby or won’t fall/In love with me.”

Aisha de Haas’s personable show offers meticulous control, naturalistic phrasing, and the artist’s infectious pleasure in performing.

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.