Linda Lavin: Love Notes

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Linda Lavin

Love Notes

(Club 44)

June 17, 2020

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Linda Lavin is (a) a Broadway legend, (b) a television star, (c) a cabaret diva, (d) all of the above. The answer is found in Love Notes, her new CD which proves she is all of these things and much, much more. This assemblage of standards is tasty and tasteful, funny and moving, revelatory and comforting. Surrounded by some of the finest musicians in the business, with arrangements by Billy Stritch and Aaron Weinstein that show off the star and her material to the absolute best advantage, this is clearly the work of passionate professionals.

Lavin’s voice is amazingly flexible, whether purring out an irresistible invitation (“Shall We Dance”—the Gershwin tune, not the Rodgers and Hammerstein) or scatting through a joyful “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” coupled with “I Got Rhythm” (which she certainly has). When things slow down to a ballad tempo for “You Must Believe in Spring,” her voice becomes pure liquid as the actress takes over to interpret the lyrics with a finesse that comes from years of experience.

She can go all vampish for a naughty “Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me)” as seductive as “You’ve Got Possibilities” which was in her breakthrough performance in It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman in 1966 (no, no need to do the math because time is irrelevant). Then Lavin surprises us by sounding contemporary with Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” and torchy with “Stars Would Fall” (Joel Lindsey & Wayne Haun). As for handling lyrics, she makes a picnic of Larry Hart’s “those lovely loves and those hateful hates” (“I Wish I Were in Love Again”) or John Latouche’s “not a cent in the red” (“Not a Care in the World”).

The contributions of the musicians on this album cannot be underestimated. In addition to Stritch (on piano) and Weinstein (on violin and mandolin), bassist Tom Hubbard, guitarist Jeff Barone, drummer Daniel Glass, and banjo player Joel Key add up to an absolutely perfect combo of talent and taste that reflect the shifting moods of the diva.

The packaging for the album is just as classy as the performances deserve. Except for a minor quibble about placing the song list behind the CD tray, making some of the credits unreadable, the artwork by Bill Westmoreland, Stephen Mosher, and Steve Bakunas pay tribute to the star, as do the lovely tributes from Stritch and Jim Caruso, along with a sweet note from the lady herself.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."