Here we have the songs of Johnny Mercer, one of the greatest writers of “The Great American Songbook,” sung by Marilyn Maye, one of greatest interpreters of that Songbook. That sounds like a great combination, doesn’t it? And indeed it is! Many years ago Ella Fitzgerald – who released a Mercer Songbook album in 1964 – called Marilyn Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world.”All these years later Ella’s remark is still no exaggeration.
I can think of no other living singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve, and vocal range. 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.
This show – as always is the case with the marvelous Miss Maye – is heavy on the medleys. Here, they’re divided into themes that Mercer liked to write about, such as “Angels,” “Women’s Names,” “Autumn,” “Dream,” and even “Revenge.” Again as always, Maye and her music director Tedd Firth handle medleys with thoughtful storytelling and sophisticated jazz musicianship. Maye exquisitely tailors her singing style to the individual Mercer song, smooth for the ballads, swinging for the up-tempos, and truly gritty for the bluesier numbers. She almost growls for his “Blues In the Night”.
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. If you love classic songs like Mercer’s sung like they’re meant to be sung, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Highly Recommended.
For tickets, click here.
For more about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.wordpress.com.