Welcome to the warm, somewhat chaotic living room of vocalist Molly Ryan and musician husband, Dan Levinson, where their friend/nanny is introduced and their young daughter gets free dancy reign. Swing with zing opens the concert and gets us in the mood. Conal Fowkes fleet-fingered, precise piano, Mike Davis’ bright trumpet, Dan Levinson’s bracing clarinet and Kevin Dorn’s buoyant drums unleash a happy “Little Girl” (Madeline Hyde/Francis Henry 1931).
Ryan then takes the mic for “After You’ve Gone” (Turner Layton/Henry Creamer 1918). Signature vocal punches out but lingers slightly with a vibrato trainer like a couture gown. The giddy groove is carried by muted trumpet and sax. The group exudes camaraderie. “If you’re not with the tempo you love, love the tempo you’re with,” quips Levinson quoting Tommy Tune.
“Here’s the song Danny proposed to me with, though he changed the lyric,” introduces Billie Holiday’s first recording, “Your Mother’s Son-in-Law” (Alberta Nichols/Mann Holiner 1933). “You don’t have to have a hanker/To be a broker or a banker/No siree, just simply be/My mother’s son-in-law.” Ryan bounces and snaps. This is a shimmy number conjuring Busby Berkeley chorines. The end of each verse arcs down. Galvanizing trumpet high hat facilitates a squawk and wah-wah, piano swaggers.
Sidney Bechet’s instrumental “If You See My Mother/Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (Sidney Bechet/ Jean Brousolle) 1952, which Levinson says is referred to in France as “If You Drink My Beer” was heard in the opening and closing of the film Midnight in Paris. It arrives romantic with appealing southern lag. Brushes circle, trumpet sounds plaintive, clarinet blows smoke rings. We’re in a basement boite. Couples drape on one another barely moving. Terrific.
Ryan’s “My Mother’s Eyes” (Abel Baer/L. Wolfe Gilbert 1928) is not, as might be expected, balladic, but rather a cheery salute. No nonsense trumpet sashays, clarinet zig-zags. The vocalist sings a wink and a wiggle. “I” (hand to heart) “Walk the straight and narrow”left arm extends) “To reach me goal…” The tune closes with a cursive curl.
Ryan and Levinson’s Anniversary was May 3. “One Morning in May” (Hoagy Carmichael/ Mitchell Parish 1933) was a song they danced to. Instruments are wide open, the melody gently ramped up. If they danced to this, it must’ve been swing. Trumpet is cool, sax vivid. Drums parenthetically go rogue.
“This is a different kind of mama song,” Ryan says prefacing Billy Rose/Con Conrad’s 1922 “You’ve Gotta See Mama Every Night (if you want to see mama at all)” It’s a proud, no kidding tease, but could use a bit more visual movement. Ryan wags her finger at “him,” palms go to her cheek, she swivels. Music is sheer, drag-that-feather-boa burlesque’ resolutely sexy. “Now I don’t care for the kind o’ a man/That works on the installment plan/You gotta see your mama every night/Or you won’t see your mama at all.”
An up tempo version of Billy Mayhew’s “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” follows with cutie-girl-in-the-band attitude. Ryan is feisty. Levinson’s clarinet does a loop-de-loop.
This is a great group- skilled, authentic, symbiotic and fun. Today’s music was infectiously “up.”