Anne & Mark Burnell: Two for the Road

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Anne & Mark Burnell

Two for the Road

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 28, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Anne & Mark Burnell

Anne (singer) and Mark Burnell (singer/pianist), partners in music and in life, returned to New York City for the first time in 20 years to celebrate the release of their album Two for the Road. They brought with them two expert musicians—James Cammack on bass and Zach Brock on violin—both of whom were highlighted throughout the evening. Anne and Mark created a swinging evening of standards drawn from various sources. They never dug too far below the surface of the lyrics, but musically they were quite satisfying and seemed to be having a great time on stage. That led to to a similar experience for the audience.

Kicking off the show with “Little Joe from Chicago” (Henry Wells/Mary Lou Williams)—all the musicians involved had direct ties with the title city—they showed that they could really swing. A much lighter jazz feel followed in the highly surprising choice of “Baubles, Bangles, & Beads” (Robert Wright/George Forrest). It gave little suggestion of its Broadway roots, and even less of its classical origin, but it did allow for some brilliant violin playing by Brock and some Peggy Lee-like playfulness by Anne. The Burnells dueted on the title tune, which was given a surprisingly quick performance (once through and done) and an unemotional delivery.

They seemed to have much more fun with Dave Frishberg’s “Let’s Eat Home” and made it seem like a scene from their home life. Equally playful was their take on Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” which had a dazzling piano solo by Mark. The group also drew on some mutual experiences at Wayne State University to imbue “Peppermint Tea” (written by Anne) to evoke some very sweet memories. The biggest surprise came when it was announced it was “mash-up time.” This led to the emotional highlight of the evening: a blending of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Ewan MacCall) and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe), which had Anne singing the first song and Mark the second. This unlikely pairing of songs was surprisingly effective; it was both erotic and gently passionate.

Other highlights were “Getting to Know You” (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) treated as a loopy waltz and a charming duet on “You Make Me Laugh” (Shelly Markham/Tom Toce). In honor of the month of the concert, “The Lusty Month of May” (Lerner & Loewe) received a Caribbean beat, and an a cappella duet on “Honeysuckle Rose” charmed. This was a charming evening filled with surprising delights. Hopefully, the Chicago couple will return to New York without waiting so long.

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."