Kieran Brown & Matt Baker: Let’s Go to the Movies

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Kieran Brown & Matt Baker

Let’s Go to the Movies

The Green Room 42, NYC, September 16, 2023

Reviewed by Chris Struck

Kieran Brown & Matt Baker

You may have heard or seen the name Kieran Brown listed in the various jazz venues that dot the New York City map many times and thought that she had been in New York for over a decade. But it hasn’t been anywhere near that long that this singer has been bringing a bright new take on the classic jazz-standard style. She cast an incandescent aura while performing upbeat jazz that reminded me of the bossa nova vintage tracks that I’ve added to my playlist since I saw this show. Her easy charm is something often learned but not quickly taught. Brown, like another young jazz performer I heard recently, performed with the confidence and simplicity that one would expect from a seasoned performer. Her light-hearted banter and friendliness were as infectious as her voice was potent.

Thankfully, Kieran Brown can often be found at the Soho Grand and at many other venues. What may be harder to find is an accompanist who is adept at the keys and focuses on the performer. Brown had one of the best of them working today, Matt Baker. He’s a regular at the Monday night open mic, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, where you might hear him and Brown when they’re not working at another club in town.

Brown took a number of classic songs from movie musicals that ranged from Cinderella and The Sound of Music to both the classic and the most recent version of A Star is Born and adapted them to her style of jazz. Some of the songs she performed I had heard sung at the Carlyle over this past year by some of the best singers in town. She delivered her songs with clean execution and solid adaptations. She even made “Edelweiss” (Rodgers & Hammerstein from The Sound of Music) a song one could either dance to or simply enjoy listening to. There wasn’t much emotion in her interpretation; she simply sang it as she promised she would and “took the movies to jazz.” Throughout the show, she adapted some classic movie-musical moments into easy listening. She offered a number of Judy Garland’s signature songs, including the classic “The Man That Got Away” (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin from A Star Is Born, 1954). That was one of Brown’s few true torch-songs choices. It was fitting that shortly afterward she offered a jazz version of the 50-year-old classic “Pure Imagination” (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley from the original film of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). It was jazzy and upbeat but still nostalgic: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” That was a moment of true bliss.

Brown followed that with two of my favorite songs in the show, both of which I would consider the best performed songs I’ve heard this year: “Moon River” (Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer from Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and the fast-becoming-a-classic “Shallow” (Lady Gaga/Andrew Wyatt/Anthony Rossomando/Mark Ronson) from the most recent version of A Star is Born). The way that she interweaved the songs throughout the show seemed somewhat accidental, the connections between them had more to do with the original performer rather than the songs themselves. But from one musical number to the next, she performed the songs well. On “Moon River,” Brown truly had me captured from the onset with the way she held the line, “I’m crossing you in style someday”; it reminded me of the rendition by one of my favorite performers. She may not have been as emotionally invested in the lyric as one could be. It was clear from her solo performance of “Shallow” that she was more than capable of expressing a full range of emotions., but here she seemed to merely dip into the emotions while she beautifully belted the song. This added to the uniqueness of her show. She’s a performer who can present skillfully contrasting styles.

These contrasts added significantly to Brown’s performance, which makes it easy to recommend her as a performer worth hearing. Unfortunately, she doesn’t always perform with the talented pianist Matt Baker, who has his own solo career with many appearances both locally and internationally. Brown took a brief intermission during the show which allowed Baker to play an excellent instrumental medley of the songs from Annie. His numerous solos throughout the show displayed the creativity that is essential to jazz. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness two true maestros at work.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see