Marya Zimmet: On the Road to Love

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Marya Zimmet

On the Road to Love

June 21, 2021

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Marya Zimmet studied music, took a three-decade detour for a doctorate and a “civilian” career, and rejoins the community with this outstanding CD. The song selection is varied and clearly personal. Zimmet expresses emotion with subtle inflection, key changes, and pauses, penetrating without volume or stress. Her beguiling voice often evokes a muted glow.

Arrangements by Tedd Firth, John DiMartino, Don Rebic, and Frank Ponzio—in combinations—reframe august material and creates freshness. Everything sounds contemporary in the best sense of the word. The musicianship is a treat.

Zimmet’s cottony vocal rides a rolling arrangement of Stephen Sondheim/ Leonard Bernstein’s “Something’s Coming.” It’s temporal, refined, restrained. “Into White” (Cat Stevens), with Pete Smith’s lovely guitar, dips and rises. The vocalist cushions poetry with sincerity.

“No Moon At All” (David Mann/Redd Evans) enters on Firth’s tiptoeing piano and Phil Palumbo’s charcoal-shadow bass. Unfurling like a stretching cat, the song is a samba. “Moo-oo-oon” and “all” arc. Consonants are rounded. Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg’s familiar “If I Only Had a Brain” is here a wistful, aptly bewildered ballad.

Mark McLean’s percussion adds texture to a hip, bass centric “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Cole Porter). A head-bobbing jazz arrangement, selective lyric repetition, and tuneful, intermittent scat all make the song feel fresh.
(Zimmet’s scat is honeyed.) “Calling You” (Bob Telson) haunts. An echoing vocal overlay works beautifully to create atmosphere.
Nathan Childer’s hypnotic horn draws us in like a snake charmer.

The iconic “Yellow Brick Road” (Elton John/Bernie Taupin) is a highlight. One might think everything possible had already been “done” to the song, but no. It almost visibly saunters, hands in pockets with a wink and a shrug. Imagine Sammy Davis Jr. dancing down a path with a dip, turn, and shuffle. Zimmet’s long notes wrap around verses like a satin ribbon. A horn creates breeze.

Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” is bossa-tinted by percussion and flute. When Zimmet sings, “I really need you,” we believe her. The song has become feminine. “Little Person” (John Brion), with which I’m unfamiliar, made me think of Dr. Seuss’ Who from Whoville, a single voice trying against all odds to be heard above the din: “I’m a little person/One person in a sea/Of little people/Who are not aware of me.” It expresses the longing to be known by someone. Its lyric is sighed.

Hip-swinging rhythm defines Annie Lennox’s “Little Bird.” The lyrics are almost folksy, the music sophisticated. Zimmet delivers unpushy R & B. I’ll bet she’d do blues justice. Here comes a horn, all sass and grin, then suddenly silence.

The collection ends with one of my favorite songs, Stephen Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle.” It’s pure, palpable  aspiration. “Yes,” is the response, “Yes.” The unhurried piano is symbiotic.

Welcome Marya Zimmet. This is a meticulously produced, disarmingly appealing CD.

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.