Ronny Whyte

Nevertheless...
The Kalmar and Ruby Songbook

Audiophile
Ronny Whyte may be one of the last of the old-fashioned piano bar/saloon singers. At best, he’s one of a fading breed. And that makes his every release a happening. This CD is no exception.

On his latest Audiophile disc, this cabaret/piano bar mainstay offers a tribute to the beloved songs of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. While arguably a trite overshadowed by peers of their generation like Berlin, Porter and such, the duo is well known to purists of the American Songbook with evergreens under their belt like “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” (with Oscar Hammerstein II) and “I Wanna Be Loved by You” (music co-written with Herbert Stothhart). Any respectable lover of sweet saloon songs is quite familiar with this team. Here, Whyte serves them with dignity, fun, respect and that special reverence for greatness that only a true connoisseur can impart. Being a serious throwback to the days of Mabel Mercer at RSVP and Bobby Short as his career grew into star status, Whyte’s the perfect choice for Kalmar and Ruby. As alluded to, there are only a handful left who can touch those names with great style and Ronny Whyte is at the top of that list.

At times, his style is minimalist, letting words and music speak for themselves with little embellishments, as on the album’s cheeky opener, “Give Me the Simple Life” (lyric: Ruby; music: Rube Bloom) and a tender “Thinking of You,” with its hauntingly moody assist from Lou Caputo on reeds. Other times, Whyte shows what a great swing arranger he is on the likes of “Who’s Sorry Now?” (music: Ted Snyder) and “Three Little Words.” He often sets a pace that slows down as he ruminates on the lyrics, drawing out relevant words that can almost bring songs to a halt. Sometimes, he allows the music to swell at dramatic moments, then pauses, allowing hushed moments to bring out the interior lives of the songs. This works with the whimsy he brings to the well-known “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” enhanced greatly by Warren Vaché on cornet. Vaché plays an important role in the success of this nostalgic walk down memory lane, as do Boots Maleson on bass and David Silliman on drums.

Overall, this is a well-produced disc with staying power in a world where that can’t be said too often anymore. With a bright, lived-in baritone that echoes another era and a suave piano style that simply flows like aged wine, Ronny Whyte hits the mark once again and proves why he is a torchbearer.

John Hoglund
Cabaret Scenes
August 12, 2014
www.cabaretscenes.org