Review: Marilyn Maye

Originally reviewed for

Ella Fitzgerald once called Marilyn Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”. I saw her for the first time in her latest club act at Feinstein’s, and I can tell you that’s no exaggeration. There are younger singers who might posses more powerful voices. However, I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve, and, yes, vocal range (at 81, her voice may not be what it once was, but it’s certainly still the envy of just about any singer 20 years her junior).

Her new show, “In Love Again” — created exclusively for Feinstein’s — features her signature hits “I Love You Today” by her mentor Steve Allen and one of her most requested songs, “Guess Who I Saw Today.” This is a classic act in every sense of the phrase. Maye is a jazz-pop singer worthy of being included in the company of Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn or Blossom Dearie, and her phrasing is the finest I’ve heard in that style from a living singer.

Her repertoire for the evening ranges from Marlene Dietrich’s signature song “Falling in Love Again” and a dazzling Cole Porter medley to Sondheim, and even Lionel Richie’s “Hello”. Maye exquisitely tailors her style of singing to the individual song, smooth for the ballads, swinging for the standards, and truly gritty for the bluesier numbers.

Maye appeared on Johnny Carson’s edition of “The Tonight Show” a total of 76 times, a record not likely ever to be beaten by any other singer with any other host. She’s been enjoying a New York renaissance recently, making critically acclaimed appearances at the Cabaret Convention and the Metropolitan Room.

Her run at Feinstein’s brings her back into “Café Society” and there couldn’t be a more magical marriage of singer and venue. If you love classic songs sung like they’re meant to be sung, it doesn’t get any better than this.

For tickets, click here.

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