Anaïs Reno

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Anaïs Reno

Birdland Theater, NYC, December 23, 2019
Reviewed by Ron Forman

Anaïs Reno

Anaïs Reno is a phenom. She is only 16 years old, yet almost instantly when she walks on stage you forget that fact. She does not look 16 and has the confidence of a seasoned pro; most importantly her sound and exquisite phrasing are not those of someone so young. The first time I observed her perform “But Not for Me,” at one of Scott Siegel’s Sinatra; The Second Century shows, I realized that she was a very special performer. In this show, dedicated to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, she showed off her remarkable ability as a jazz singer. She was relaxed and nicely told the historical context of each song that she performed. She was backed by a swinging jazz trio—Brian Charette (piano), Neil Miner (bass), and Joe Strasser (drums)—and gave each musician a few solo shots to show off their skills.

The show opened with Reno showing off a big, bluesy voice with “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues.” She swung nicely with “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” which included extended solos by all three musicians. An interesting summary of events in Strayhorn’s life led into a mash-up of his “Chelsea Bridge” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.” Reno’s mom, virtuoso violinist Julie Kurtzman, accompanied her on two numbers: “It’s Kind of Lonesome Out Tonight” and a wonderful performance of “Caravan” that began with Reno opening with Arabic-type chanting, then displaying wonderful breath control and finally showing off her ability to scat.

As I was watching, I wondered whether a 16-year-old would dare do Strayhorn’s classic “Lush Life.” Yes, she dared, but before performing it, she reminded the audience that Strayhorn wrote the song as a teenager. Accompanied only by Charette, her voice, facial expressions, and body movements made me forget that she was a teenager as I watched and listened to her captivating performance of this very challenging song. She told how Strayhorn came up with the idea for “Take the A Train” while riding the subway to visit Ellington in Harlem, before closing the show with a swinging performance of it.  After the audience demanded an encore, she returned with “Satin Doll.”

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.