Paulo Szot

54 Below
New York, NY
Suave, handsome Paulo Szot slipped smoothly into his saloon singer persona, singing a program that combined selections from his Brazilian origins, musicals and even a bit of opera, sculpting his rich instrument to fit the intimate 54 Below.

“Summertime” (Gershwin/Heyward) and “Too Darn Hot” (Porter) were perfect openers for this summer night and, certainly, all his Brazilian repertoire kept the temperature “way up.” Jobim was the major Brazilian composer represented with his “One Note Samba” (Newton Mendonça), “Sad” (Romero Lubambo/Norman Gimbel), “Wave” and “Desafinado” (Mendonça), all of which he performed with a quotidian feel for the lyrics and their subtle rhythms. Add to these the classic “Bésame Mucho” (Consuelo Velázquez/Sunny Skylar) and the sensual quotient of the evening was filled to the brim.

“Nature Boy” (Eden Ahbez) had a lovely bowed bass solo that added to Szot’s sensitive interpretation. The Bricusse/Newley classic, “What Kind of Fool Am I?,” had with a quiet intensity, ending on a surprisingly effective falsetto note.

The sole operatic aria, from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, was included because of its similarity to “Lover, Come Back to Me” from The New Moon (Romberg/Hammerstein), his voice filling the room to its edges.

A quiet “Old Devil Moon” (Lane/Harburg) was contrasted with an emotionally rich “This Nearly Was Mine” (Rodgers/Hammerstein), a song which helped win Szot his Tony Award. Of course, he ended with that baritone cornerstone “If Ever I Would Leave You” (Loewe/Lerner).

Musical Director Matthew Aucoin led David Finck on bass and David Meade on drums with a finesse that belied his years.

Joel Benjamin
Cabaret Scenes
August 29, 2014