Spencer Day : Broadway by Day

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Spencer Day

Broadway by Day

(Club44 Records)

March 12, 2022

Reviewed by John Amodeo

Spencer Day’s latest recording, Broadway by Day, eschews the American standards and original compositions that marked his first six recordings and turns to the Broadway songbook, another of Day’s passions. This is a musically polished recording featuring exceptional musicians and delicious arrangements.

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Yet, its relaxed and extemporaneous sound instantly transforms your living room into your favorite martini bar. With his smooth, smoky baritone and mostly vibrato-free delivery, Day’s vocals call to mind such other jazz artists as Tony DeSare and Harry Connick, Jr. Rather than belting his way through a series of 11 o’clock numbers, Day handles the songs of the Great White Way gently, with a skillful cross between smooth jazz and light swing that gives the recording the subtle ambience of a cocktail party or romantic dinner.

Day’s choice of material is pleasantly unexpected, with at least half of the dozen songs traditionally sung by or written for women. The two numbers from A Chorus Line that bookend the recording, “One” and “What I Did for Love,” were originally introduced as choral numbers but take on different shades when sung solo. Day’s “What I Did for Love,” for instance, is rendered as a tender personal memoir rather than being delivered in its usual delivery as a determined anthem. It provides a lovely closing to this very reflective recording.

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However, if you are looking for versions that mine the emotional depths of the song’s lyrics, you won’t find them here. The real focus of the recording is its exquisite musicality, which runs deep throughout the album.

That superb musicianship is especially evident in the unusually spirited “Bali Ha’i” (South Pacific), which opens and closes with Ryan Shaw’s feisty percussion while Jim Hoke adds just the right touch of Polynesian atmosphere with his steel guitar. Gary Matsumoto’s lively piano arrangement keeps the rhythm going. Day makes great use of an uptempo walking bass which effectively livens up “On the Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady) with a syncopated swing that carries Day’s creative vocals. The buoyant bass uplifts the normally quiet ballad, “It Only Takes a Moment” (Hello, Dolly!) into a bouncing duet with the marvelous Jane Monheit, who makes a welcome cameo appearance here, blending her lilting alto beautifully with Day’s deep baritone.

Day knows how to set the mood with several romantic ballads, sung with minimal embellishment. He smartly trusting the material, which speaks for itself. An example is his simple, straight-forward delivery of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (Jesus Christ Superstar. In Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” (Follies), Day is at his most vulnerable, aided by only Matsumoto’s tender piano accompaniment. If he were to perform this piece in a cabaret room, you would most certainly be able to hear a pin drop. The romantic high point of the album, however, is “If I Loved You” (Carousel), featuring another guest artist David Koz, whose sensual saxophone playing, along with Day’s smooth voice, could cast a spell on anyone within earshot. This cut calls to mind a romantic candlelit dinner where the food remains untouched, and the candles have melted on an empty table hastily vacated by occupants with more urgent priorities.

Day, who has been performing winter gigs in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the past several years, has made good use of his Mexican connections; he recorded his vocals in a Mexican studio, and enlisted several talented Mexican musicians to back him up. One of those is Puerto Vallarta’s pre-eminent guitarist, Eduardo Leon.

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On Day’s sultry “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You” (Evita). Leon turns up the heat with his sizzling nylon guitar interlude, while Day slinks and slides through the lyrics with almost reptilian skill.

Even with its variety of tempos, song types, and musical arrangements on this recording, the album has a cohesive sound that lends itself as background for other activities. But it will also reward those who choose to listen actively and take delight in its layered riches.

John Amodeo

John Amodeo has been a contributing writer to Cabaret Scenes since 1998, has written cabaret articles for Theatermania.com, was a cabaret journalist for Bay Windows (1999-2005), and then for Edge Publications (2005-present).  John has been producer, assistant producer, and host for several Boston-area cabaret galas over the past 25 years, and produced Brian De Lorenzo’s MACC-nominated recording “Found Treasures.” His liner notes grace several cabaret CDs. John holds degrees in landscape architecture from Cornell and Harvard Universities, and has been practicing landscape architecture in Boston for 35 years, where he is a partner in his firm. John was a founding member of the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA), and served as BACA Vice President for 2 terms. He is happily married to his favorite cabaret artist Brian De Lorenzo.