Louisa Lee Poster: Live at the SideWalk Café

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Louisa Lee Poster

Live at the SideWalk Café

(Original Cast Records)

August 8, 2021

Reviewed by Jerry Osterberg

This delightful recording by Louisa Lee Poster might as well have been called You Are My Sunshine since that’s what it is all about. Written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell in 1939, the classic song became one of the most recorded songs of all time; waxed by everyone from the Carter Family to Miley Cyrus. By his presence on this album, Jimmie Davis, a two-time governor of Louisiana, gets to shine with several of the giants of the Great American Songbook: Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, Buddy DeSylva, Ray Henderson, Jerome Kern, and Vincent Youmans among them.

From the first song, “I Want to Be Happy,” there’s no doubt where Poster wants to take the audience. She’s clearly in a good mood and wants her listeners to share the happy moment. The arrangement is joyful, snappy, and bouncy, fully underscored by a sparkling piano solo by Matt Malanowski.

“Blue Skies,” an Irving Berlin gem that was interpolated into the Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical Betsy, was a huge hit although the play proved to be an early failure for the pair. It would have been nice to hear the verse and for the song to move at a somewhat slower pace.

“Somebody Loves Me” begins at a slow tempo, seemingly on its way to being a broken-hearted torch song, before switching to a fast tempo, providing Malanowski and bass player Alex Gressel a place to contribute exceptional solos. Riding on another excellent jazz arrangement is “Look for the Silver Lining,” a song made popular by Judy Garland. It begins fast and never lets up. “Why Don’t You Do Right,” a 1943 hit by Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, is truly a winning team effort in the hands of Poster, Malanowski, and Gressel. The bluesy performance remains true to the spirit of the music, and Poster’s precise delivery lands perfectly on every note. It is undoubtedly the album’s best moment.

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In an otherwise largely entertaining set of iconic songs, there is perhaps a lost opportunity or two. That is, the performances would benefit from some variation in the rhythm and/or tempo, and in “Somebody Loves Me,” the singer might briefly return to the opening to emphasize the sense of sadness and disappointment suggested in the lyrics, before moving on to the lighthearted ending. Still, listening to Louisa Lee Poster’s new recording is a good way to brighten up your day.

Jerry Osterberg

After decades in the banking field, singing in a chorale, and writing on just about every subject under the sun, Jerry left finance and decided to devote himself to the American Songbook. Countless workshops in singing and writing later, he began contributing articles to the New York Sheet Music Society and to write reviews and feature stories for Cabaret Scenes. Jerry is now the Contributing Editor for the monthly newsletter of the NYSMS, continues to perform in chorus, and is currently researching a biography of the late American pop singer Jo Stafford.