Marilyn Maye

Birdland
New York, NY
Like drumrolls and colored lights, Marilyn Maye is pure Show Biz.  She electrifies the room from the moment she steps on the stage.  Since returning to New York City in 2006, Maye has played most of the cabaret rooms, turning the years back to a time when cabarets were nightclubs and the vibe was entertainment.

Her premier run at Birdland (Sept. 9-13, 2014) featured Musical Director/arranger Tedd Firth on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Maye’s longtime drummer, Jim Eklof.  She ran the gamut, opening and closing with her traditional “It’s Today” from Mame, singing Jerry Herman’s lyrics and her own, always-changing words.  With a jazz touch on pop and theater songs, she saluted New York and then moved into a Fats Waller medley.  “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” percolated and the trio set a blues mood for “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”  Maye gave a good, sexy wail to “Honeysuckle Rose,” oozing Andy Razaf’s lyrics—“Seems the honey fairly drips....”

Maye and her boys bounced into Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” (lyrics: Bob Russell) and played around with Johnny Mercer’s sassy lyrics to “Satin Doll” (music co-composed by Billy Strayhorn).“When October Goes” (lyrics: Mercer; music: Barry Manilow) was a reminder that Marilyn Maye is a lady of many moods and she is sounding better than ever with her ballads.  Any “Joe” in the room had to melt when she sang “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe” (Harold Arlen/“Yip” Harburg) and the intricate arrangement of “Joey, Joey, Joey” (Frank Loesser) was stunning.

Moving into the drama of torch songs, Maye inevitably grasps the room in her fist.  Having performed in musicals around the country, she proves she’s a natural on stage and add to that a lush versatile voice and enviable energy.  She has lived long enough, and gets the canon well enough, to add keen understanding to the story songs “Guess Who I Saw Today”  (Murray Grand with Elisse Boyd) and Billy Barnes’s “Something Cool.” In “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” (Ramirez/Davis/Sherman), she brings vulnerability to the open vowels of  “The night is cold and I’m so alone.”  This selection led to an astute pairing with E. A. Swan’s “When Your Lover Has Gone,” and then Maye wraps it up, plaintively wondering, “Lover man, oh, where can you be?”

Sparks fly when Maye zooms into Paul Desmond’s “Take Five,” the Dave & Iola Brubeck lyrics distinct as she swings hard in a minor key and quintuple time.  With Firth proving he is the maestro of pianissimo, this is a showpiece.

Marilyn Maye proves show after show after show that there is nothing this magical musician cannot do.  She’s a treat, she’s a bonanza, she’s entertainment!

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cabaret Scenes
September 10, 2014
www.cabaretscenes.org