Dianne Fraser: You and I: The Words and Music of Leslie Bricusse

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Dianne Fraser

You and I: The Words and Music of Leslie Bricusse

Catalina Jazz Club, Los Angeles, CA, November 15, 2023

Reviewed by Mary Bogue

Dianne Fraser

Neophyte Dianne Fraser enthusiastically took the stage at Catalina Jazz Club to explore and educate us about the much-loved songs of Leslie Bricusse. Educate, she did, and she also shared amusing personal anecdotes about her experience with the songs.

A force to be dealt with, Fraser was in good form, very well-rehearsed, and strong of voice, so that all the lyrics could be understood. Though she was quite capable of hitting the higher notes, she was strongest when she was in her more comfortable middle register.

Todd Schroeder–pianist, musical director, and arranger–skillfully led the band, beginning with an up-tempo overture. Fraser opened with “At the Crossroads” (Bricusse), a soft and tender ballad and then moved into his “After Today,” in which the tempo changed to moderate swing. Along with the vocal numbers she told many stories about Bricusse. Fraser seemed stiff in her interpretation of “Pure Imagination,” and though vocally robust, more emotional connection would have better served the song.

As she warmed up, Fraser’s very spirited, ten-out-of-ten vocal delivery of “Feeling Good” did not allow her to slowly build her way through the song. A quieter, more insightful approach might have been considered when she offered “Crazy World” (music by Henry Mancini, lyric by Bricusse) in a mash-up with “If I Ruled the World” (music by Cyril Ornadel, lyric by Bricusse).

Then there was a wonderful breakthrough. Fraser’s light shined its brightest with her “French twist,” as she sang “Le Jazz Hot” (Mancini/Bricusse) in French. She became playful, changed chords easily, donned a top hat, and strutted her stuff It was her most organic performance of the evening, and the audience showed their approval with cheers and applause.

Damon Kirsche joined her on stge. He was masterful and believable with his lyrics on their duet, “Look at That Face” (Bricusse/Anthony Newley) which moved into “Something In Your Smile (Bricusse).

Another compilation of two songs—“This Is the Moment,” (music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Bricusse) and “Once in a Lifetime” (Bricusse/Newley)—became an outstanding showpiece. Fraser’s performance was engaging and fully invested. (It would have served wonderfully as her opening number or as her next-to-last song.) Her exuberance and joy were tangible.

She sang to the back of the house on “You and I” (Bricusse). The soft introduction was welcome, though it would have been nice to see Fraser connect with her nearest audience members. She concluded the evening with a sincere and sweet dedication to her husband with “Two for the Road” (Mancini/Bricusse). Adam Cohen on bass played warm notes and Fraser’s sister, drummer Denise Fraser, contributed enthusiastically to the hour-plus show.

Mary Bogue

Born to upstate New York parents Nelson Binner and Gladys Witt, Mary Bogue was the fourth of five children. Her love of acting was apparent early in her life, when she acted out imagined scenes in the second story hallway of their home on Division Street. Moving to California in 1959 only fueled the fire and soon she tried out and got the part in Beauty and the Beast, a children's production at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The bug followed her into junior and high school productions, but when she struck out on her own in the early 70s, she found it wasn't as easy as sitting at the world famous Schwab's on Sunset. Her first audition stopped her dead in her tracks for years when the "casting director" expected nudity. It was only in 1990 that she returned to her first love, albeit slowly as she was a caregiver to 16 foster daughters. Only when she was cast in Antonio Bandera's directorial debut, Crazy in Alabama (1999)(which she was cut from) did she pursue this dream.