The 2023 New York Cabaret Convention: As Time Goes By: Timeless Tunes

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The 2023 New York Cabaret Convention

As Time Goes By: Timeless Tunes

Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, October 19, 2023

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

KT Sullivan
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

To bring the 34th New York Cabaret Convention to a close, KT Sullivan, artistic director of the Mabel Mercer Foundation, hosted a group of cabaret artists (veterans and newcomers,) who presented a concert of classic popular songs. Because most of the artists contributed only a single number, the evening moved quickly and smoothly, and Sullivan kept the introductions to a minimum. There wasn’t a dull performance in the evening, and many soared far above the standard, beginning with the hostess herself. The evening kicked off with Sullivan in her new role as a singer-pianist with a deeply felt “Hello, Young Lovers.” Brian Eng followed; he also accompanied himself on the piano (backed up by Steve Doyle on bass and Ray Marchica on drums, both of whom continued through much of the evening) for a jazzy “Change Partners.”

“You’re Going to Hear from Me” promised Lianne Marie Dobbs, and indeed we did. She introduced her song with a moving passage from Michelle Obama’s memoir. Ben Jones continued with another powerful premonition, “The Best Is Yet to Come.” A change of pace came when with singer/pianist Nicole Zaraitis delivered a gentle rendition of “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Jonathan Karrant offered “No Moon at All,” a selection from his new album, Eclectic. Olivia Stevens followed with a delicate version of the lesser known “I Know a Miracle Will Happen One Day.” Pianist/singer Eric Yves Garcia delivered the classic “All the Way” with his customary panache.

The precocious Anaïs Reno thrilled with a passionate “Lover Man.” After that, the glamorous Diva LaMarr, in an outstanding and outrageous costume reveal, delivered a theatrical blend of “Rose’s Turn” and “Broadway Baby.” Klea Blackhurst took the stage to deliver an obscure Ethel Merman tune, “Satin’s Li’l Lamb,” with her customary brio. She remained on stage to present, with great humor and warmth, The Donald F. Smith Award to her good friend (and a great friend of the cabaret community) Billy Stritch. He then sang for his supper with a medley of selections from Singin’ in the Rain to bring the first half to a close.

To open the second half, that lady in red Carole J. Bufford ignited the hall with “Put the Blame on Mame.” The future was again on display when Oklahoma high school student Lincoln Johnson who showed off a stirring voice on “If.” Alexis Cole offe-ed up a jazzy “Come Back to Me,” complete with controlled scatting. One of the loveliest couples in the cabaret world, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, were brought on stage to show some of their magic— he with a charming “Mam’selle” and she with an ultra-romantic “In the Still of the Night.” Together they sang a playful “As Long as I Live.” Another young performer, Lizzie Buller (winner of the Adele & Larry Elow American Songbook Competition) had fun with “A Stranger Here Myself.” Then one of our grand balladeers, Todd Murray, flowed through a flawless “Stardust.”

Brazilian Fil Sofia offered an ardent “Manha de Carnaval”/A Day in the Life of a Fool” in both Portuguese and English. Keeping up with the international flavor of the moment, Britisher Gary Williams charmed with “Isn’t It a Lovely Day.” Then Josephine Sanges came on to rip the place apart with her version of “My Man.” Finally, Aisha de Hass sang the title song of the evening, “As Time Goes By” with a winning style.

In addition to those musicians previously mentioned were pianists Ron Abel, James Followell, Jon Webber, Ian Herman, and John Cook; bassist David Finck; guitarist Sean Harkness; and drummer Kenny Hassler. All were part of the night’s glowing entertainment.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."