It’s a pleasure to see Josephine Sanges grow into what is, for her, a relatively new art. Arriving on the scene with a finely honed instrument, she’s learned to plumb lyrics, guard down, sharing emotional investment.
In tandem with “Old Devil Moon” (Burton Lane/EY Harburg), Van Morrison’s “Moondance” vocally glides just above melody. Good spirits are palpable. At the piano, John Cook seems to be skating figure eights. Showcasing jazz chops, Duke Ellington/Milk Gaber’s iconic “In a Mellow Tone” finds every note beautifully controlled, yet never forced while “How High the Moon” (Nancy Hamilton/Morgan Lewis) slip/slides with playful skill.
Two from Harold Arlen, “It’s a New World” (with Ira Gershwin) and “Out of This World” (with Johnny Mercer) emerge poignant. A sense of vulnerability enhances. Piano undulates. Sanges is mostly still. When her hands hold the microphone stand or a palm rises, the gesture is affecting. In the second song phrases loop out and back, head tilts, eyes close.
Also deftly arranged as well as performed is “Stars and The Moon” (Jason Robert Brown), a storysong delivered best, as here, in understated fashion. With a mere turn of the head or pause for reflection, Sanges conveys character.“…I’ll give you stars and the moon and a soul to guide you/And a promise I’ll never go/I’ll give you hope to bring out all the life inside you/And the strength that will help you grow…And I thought, “You know, I’d rather have a yacht…”
“If Love Were All” (Noel Coward) arrives less jaded than usual. Though beaten by life, this version is not without hope, likely projected by Sanges own beliefs. It’s lovely.
A salute to the recently passed Michel LeGrand offers sympathetic material. Beginning with a languid “The Summer Knows”- hand trailing in the water from a drifting boat, arpeggios like dragon flies, to a dramatically believable “Will Someone Ever Look at Me That Way?” to interpretation of “A Piece of Sky” with impeccable slow build and open-throated last verse that makes hairs stand up on my arm. (Lyrics-Alan and Marilyn Bergman) Sanges has the discretion not to get loud just because a song is powerful.
An encore of “Fly Me to the Moon” (Bart Howard), the tune with which Sanges ventured into cabaret during a Metrostar challenge, is longlined and savored rather than slick, leaving the audience soothed and smiling. An accomplished performer.
Caveats: I miss connective tissue. Though songs arrive mostly paired, there’s little overall relationship. Brief patter is thin. Sanges knows what she’s singing. Intelligence and sensitivity might successfully be applied here as well.
Cook’s boogie and jazz arrangements feel repetitive and out of sync.
Photos by Jeff Harnar
Josephine Sanges- Moondance
John Cook- Piano
The Beach Café
1326 Second Avenue
July 12, 2019