David White & David Jackson: Cotton Club Confidential

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David White & David Jackson

Cotton Club Confidential

54 Below, NYC, February 8, 2024

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

David Jackson & David White


David White met David Jackson 35 years ago when, at the last minute, he stepped into the Broadway production of Grand Hotel. They’ve been dear friends ever since. Jackson is White’s son’s godfather. The talented song-and-dance men were immensely likeable, and their style was relaxed and buoyant. White described Jackson as “trustworthy, kind, and bossy.” Jackson described White as “bombastic, intense, and funny.”

“Take the ‘A’ Train” (Billy Strayhorn/Lee Gaines) was cool and easy, “a little shuffle off.” White noted that Jackson wouldn’t have been able to pass the “brown paper bag” test that was given to Cotton Club performers. Only those with skin the color of brown paper bags or lighter were hired. “They would’ve called me ‘high yellow’ back then,” Jackson replied. “How many words do white people have for white? One,” White added. “Copper Colored Gal” (Benny Davis/J. Fred Coots) was accompanied by bit of loose-limbed soft shoe.

Both artists consider themselves lucky. “I’m Just a Lucky So and So” (Duke Ellington/Mack David) was delivered sincerely—an anomaly. White strolled the stage as Jackson watched with affection and pride. Jackson then began the droll “Then I’d Be Satisfied with Life” (George M. Cohan) which became a winking duet: “All I want is 50 million dollars/And seal silk to protect me from the cold/If I only knew how stocks would go in Wall Street/And were living in the mansion built of gold.”

“Minnie the Moocher” (Cab Calloway/Irving Mills/Clarence Gaskill) was a highlight. Both men wielded batons. The audience robustly parrotted “Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi (hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi)/Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho (ho-ho-ho-ho-ho).Fun! Jackson’s rendering of “Stardust” (Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish) was inspired by the son he never knew. It was the one serious number performed that night. The wistful interpretation featured a mellow sax.

“Maybe My Baby Loves Me” (Robert Wright/George Forrest/Maury Yeston) the duet they had originally performed in Grand Hotel, had lost none of its brio. With classic scat, polished phrasing, and some flirting with a front-row patron, the friends slid into the song as if they were putting on a favorite old coat. “Me and My Shadow” (Al Jolson/Billy Rose/Dave Dreyer) began with the rarely heard verse. The artists swayed and sashayed across the stage as they sang in counterpoint. Their understatement was just right.

Allyson Tucker


Guest Allyson Tucker, draped in a show-stopping purple gown, added brightness and feminine sass. Rarely seen these days, she sang, swung, and seductively moooved to beat the band. After her solos, the trio performed “T’aint Nobody’s Business” (Porter Grainger/Everett Robbins) as it might have been performed in 1930s Harlem. “You Can’t Make Old Friends” (Ryan Hanna King/ Don Schlitz/Caitlyn Smith), the only contemporary selection, nicely tied things up with a satin bow. There were good feelings all around .

The show’s title was a misnomer. Though there were photo stills and a few references and songs from the iconic Cotton Club, more than half the program was about the men’s enviable friendship. A choice of either one of the two themes would have better served the evening. Additionally, instrumentals, including an unnecessary warm-up medley, seemed like filler.

The direction and choreography by Lynette Barkley suited both the personalities of the performers and fit the restricted stage space available for dancing. The show was written by Scott Brooks. Alex Rybeck served as music director/pianist, with Ritt Henn on bass, Gene Ghee on reeds, and Ray Marchica on drums.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.