Jan Sandwich: Salute to the Ladies of Song

Jan Sandwich

Salute to the Ladies of Song

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Jazz Lounge, Scottsdale, AZ, November 13, 2021

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Jan Sandwich

It was great fun to return to the Scottsdale Center for the Arts Jazz Lounge and be seated at a table to enjoy a real cabaret show. After guests showed proof of vaccination at the door, masks were optional and beverages were allowed.

Jan Sandwich has been a working entertainer in Arizona for over 20 years. If you check her website (www.jansandwich.com) you will see that she may be the hardest working entertainer in town. She makes much of her living playing characters at schools and libraries and other private events. She works as Mother Goose, Cowgirl Jan, and Sandy the Clown, and this time of year she spends many days as Mrs. Santa Claus. Sandwich also loves the Great American Songbook and that comes through loud and clear when she performs. She is confident and smart and surrounds herself with some of the best musicians I have heard in Arizona. I was not familiar with the three men known as Trio 380. They consist of Richard Palalay (music director/keyboards), Felix Sainz (bass), and Charles Bulla (drums). They were unofficially known as the Nordstrom Trio, playing at Scottsdale Fashion Square for many years. They also recorded for the label Pure & Simple back in the 1990s.

The musical arrangements were well crafted and provided superb accompaniment to Sandwich, who chose a tight program of songs previously recorded by great singers, ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Julie Andrews to Bette Midler. Donning a red sparkle jacket, Sandwich intertwined bits of history and gossip about the ladies of song and then chose one piece that was meant not to imitate but to allow her style and presence to pay tribute. I will say however that Sandwich is an excellent impersonator. She sounded like Marilyn Monroe telling the story of how the actress was responsible for getting Fitzgerald booked at a New York nightclub after her debut at the Apollo Theater and helping to expose her to a wider audience by promising to show up once a week at the club. At one point she did a quick costume change, returning as a dead-on Ruth Buzzy for a little comic interlude.

Sandwich is a belter, and her voice is strong but can go flat at times when she stretches her range. Her best number was “Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson and made famous by Patsy Cline. Her midwestern twang and low register fell easily into the character of the scorned woman and I felt her pain. She did a turn with Dinah Shore’s Chevrolet commercial “See the USA in a Chevrolet,” with Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera,” and Debbie Reynolds’ “Tammy,” (the last two by Jay Livingston/Ray Evans).with

She had some fun scatting on Duke Ellington and Irving Mills’ “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” as well as Billie Holliday’s “Them There Eyes,” written by Maceo Pinkard, Doris Tauber, and William Tracey in 1930.

Sainz had some nice solo moments on the acoustic bass, particularly on “That Old Black Magic,” the tribute to Keely Smith. Palalay demonstrated wide stylistic range on the keyboard, making the digital instrument sound like a Steinway grand. Bulla is the perfect percussionist, keeping the rhythmic support on every tune but never calling attention to the drums.

Cabaret calls for a singer to make choices, color the lyrics in her own style, and connect with the audience. Sandwich gets an A in all those subjects. She was charming and when she was about to introduce her final number, a fan from the audience called out “Is it Fever?,” to which she replied, “it could be.” And off she and the musicians went with a song that they knew but had clearly not rehearsed as the finale.

Bravo to the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center for showcasing local cabaret artists and giving Sandwich the stage to bring her show to a small but extremely appreciative audience. 

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.