I believe original sin/Is giving up and giving in… sings the vocalist…At my age, who wants to diet?/If it’s creamy and sweet/I have to try it…I’ve had it all/I’ve had most of it removed… (“Take a Bite” McBroom/Michele Brourman/Karen Gottlieb) The number is a breezy, well earned shrug, perhaps with a tad of arthritis. I could say we women hear ourselves, but suspect more than a few men might chime in…Life’s the punchline/That’s the joke…Later, the Latin arranged “Congratulations” (McBroom/ Brourman) is even darker and just as spot on. Humor rules, but ouch.
McBroom swallows a song and exhales. She’s never less than present in real time, affected by lyric meaning in the moment we see her. Over the years, performance changes because she does, not technically, though of course that’s true, but emotionally.
A show-stopping rendition of Jacque Brel/Eric Blau’s “Carousel” is gorgeous and terrifying. I’ve heard the vocalist inhabit this song before, but tonight she seems to cut into and jettison every enunciated word with new vehemence – as if more were at stake. (Just look at our world.) Brourman begins by evoking a haunting, old music box and progresses to whomping the piano pedal as if it were vermin. Comrades in madness they create something new under the sun.
Also seriously unnerving is torn-from-the-headlines “Baby in a Box” describing the scene of an abandoned infant. McBroom’s high wattage, low volume, a capella, rat-a-tat-tat delivery is riveting and horrible in stark representation. She blazes. Two numbers about the Kafkaesque nature of things happening around us these days erupt sincere and outraged. The artist is nothing if not observant and affected.
Familiar originals arrive like old friends. McBroom’s very first, “Ship in a Bottle,” is saturated with tenderness. To me, it suddenly sounds as if the character has been waiting a long time. Rich, waltzy piano and Jered Egan’s penetrating, bowed bass collaborate. I think of a Brancusi bird, everything stripped away but truth.
“Crimes (of the heart),” about a 42 year-old woman besotted with a 29 year-old man, emerges an unstressed vocal with lyrical urgency. (How does she so ably reconcile those?)…He devoured every minute of her time…McBroom sings, eyes closed, savoring…She didn’t mind…the vocalist continues with a sober, reflective laugh. Bass shadows, piano flickers as if aided by intricate stage lighting. The heartfelt “No Fear,” requested by husband George Ball (whose own CD I highly recommend) is as delicate as it is powerful. …The only thing I fear/Someday, some night, some year/Is losing you.
A delightfully wry take on seduction, “Eggs” (McBroom/ Brourman), is apparently all of two days old. Cool bass vamp precedes the hush and snap of McBroom’s Forgive me, my dear/ If I’m pressing here/How do you like your eggs?…Shall we cut to the chase/Or give it some space/See if this thing has legs…The performer ripely leans in to her receptive audience… plate or cup-maybe sunny-side-up…Imagine implicit purr, cozy suggestion. McBroom slowly shakes her finger. Brourman does a melodic Fosse turn. I’m grinning as I write this.
Two songs written with the recently passed Joel Silberman who “taught me how to bow and cook bad risotto” are charming and smart, though not weighed down by the latter. McBroom seems visibly moved during “NY at Night”…I’ll never see New York at night and not see you…The performer is looking at us, possibly thinking of him. A lovely testimonial.
Rarely will you find artistic partners as generously symbiotic as Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman. Respect and affection underpin every artful component. Tonight, Jered Egan’s bass adds texture and finesse.
While McBroom is winging back to her garden, Brourman can be seen here September 15: Let’s Order In-An Evening with Michel Brourman at NYC’s Pangea.
Photos by Maryann Lopinto
My Favorite Things – Amanda McBroom
Michele Brourman-MD/Piano/Back-Up Vocals; Jared Egan-Bass
Birdland September 10, 2018