Jan Sandwich: I Got Rhythm – A Tribute to Cole Porter and George Gershwin

Jan Sandwich

I Got Rhythm – A Tribute to Cole Porter and George Gershwin

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Jazz Lounge, Scottsdale, AZ, January 13, 2024

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Jan Sandwich

The Jazz Lounge sports seven cabaret tables in front of a raised stage with approximately 12 rows of theater seating behind the tables. It’s an intimate space for a singer backed by piano, bass, and drums. Jan Sandwich is an Arizona-based artist reviewed once before for her Ladies of Song show. Once again, she surrounded herself with superior musicians. This time she was backed by pianist/arranger Mike Smith, Tommy Eddleston on bass and guitar, and Ron Skoog on drums. To start the show, they played a medley of nine Cole Porter and George Gershwin tunes to set the mood, and then Smith introduced Sandwich. She sat on a stool for “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” It would have been better had she saved that song for the second spot of the show and opened with the title song.

Sandwich had energy and spunk. She clearly loves the American Songbook. She referred to her audience as friends and folks and has built a following over the years. Vocally, she is showing her age. She chose many vocals colors—belting, sometimes finding a nice middle mix. She loves to end a song with a flourish of head notes, which worked especially well on “Embraceable You.” She can scat à la Ella. However, she did not sing consistently in the middle of the pitch.

She kept her script on a music stand, which I do not like to see but have seen many times. She mostly referred to it for the next song, and only occasionally for lyrics. She told short stories about the songwriters and used her trunk of jokes that resonated with the senior audience. She poked fun at her last name: “When I married Mr. Sandwich, we invented our own sandwich on our honeymoon: lettuce alone”; “We named our son Reuben.”

One of her strongest moments was singing Mel Tormé’s parody lyrics that he wrote for Ella Fitzgerald for “Lady Be Good.” She also shined on “Swanee,” which fit nicely in her range. I was impressed that she can squat with a mic in her hand to look directly at her audience; that is not easy at our age! She was interactive with the “folks” sitting at the tables, and they were clearly having fun with her. She transformed into Marilyn Monroe for “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and delivered a spot-on “Anything Goes” in which Smith showed off this keyboard skills.

Smith arranged her medleys of “But Not for Me,” “Somebody Loves Me,” and “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)”; “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Love Is Here to Stay”; and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” which slid right into “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” Smith also did a knock-up job with his arrangement of “Just One of Those Things.” The finale was a trio of “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You Do Something to Me,” and “A Foggy Day.” Sandwich paid homage to the recent passing of Tony Bennett with what she said was his favorite song and the title of his final recording with Lady Gaga, “Love for Sale.” Sandwich performed a tribute cabaret to Doris Day and included a song that Sinatra once recorded with Day, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Sandwich always strives to make the lyrics personal, especially on this song.

The highlight of the afternoon and the number that elicited the most applause was not a vocal performance; it was the Smith-led trio’s eight-minute version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Smith evoked the sound of a concert grand from his electric keyboard, Eddleston bowed the bass like an entire string section, and Skoog found the perfect percussion part. Sandwich asked the band to join her to applaud the audience, and she left us with the challenge to keep the songs of Gershwin and Porter alive. Bravo to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for bringing these American Songbook classics into the Jazz Lounge.

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.