Philip Officer: Let Me Sing and I’m Happy

Phillip Officer left New York with a one way ticket to Las Vegas in 2008 determined to reinvent himself. He’s circling back to music. “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” (Irving Berlin) the vocalist earnestly declares. Signature style of parlando sliding into vocal personalizes effect. By the looks of the venue, packed with fellow performers as well as fans, he’s well remembered.

“I needed to transform, It was a conscious choice,” the performer tells us. Stephen Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle” – he shrugs…that’s what they say…epitomizes starting fresh. He’s hopeful, optimistic. We believe every word and sympathize. “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac) arrives unhurried, gently seared, as if thoughts were coming in real time. “Blackbird” (Paul McCartney) follows with arresting bowed and picked cello. “…into the light of the dark black night” he sings, hand swooping, voice rising like smoke.

Officer is inhabited by lyric and sentiment which bodily control him till exiting. Every phrase evokes adjustment, some small, others with bent knee, dip or bounce. He’s immensely expressive. Control and phrasing offer remarkable finesse. Duets with MD/pianist Mark Hartman- especially “I’m Nothing Without You” (Cy Coleman/David Zippel), very much sung TO each other as Officer leans towards his collaborator on the piano top,  sound and feel just right. (Nice harmony.)

The show’s trajectory is elusive. We understand he’s been on a journey, but repeatedly stating it doesn’t take us with him. Additionally, songs are set in pairs or threes without musical bridge/crossover leaving frequent momentary pauses which impede flow. I conjecture that relationship songs refer to music/his audience which in some lyrics is a stretch. 

Cher’s “Believe” and Johnny Mercer/Sadie Vimmerstedt’s “I Wanna Be Around” with super guitar riffs, indicate betrayal and revenge. A poignant “Old Friend” (Gretchen Cryer/Nancy Ford) abetted by beautiful cello, “Everything Must Change” (Bernard Ighner), and “All in Love is Fair” (Stevie Wonder) featuring cello and musing guitar, are splendidly sequenced. Officer’s restraint convinces. About whom is he singing?

“I Love Being Here with You” (Peggy Lee) backed by nifty jazz guitar solo and fiddle-like cello arrives freshly, appealingly arranged. The performer will be back in New York to appear in Mabel Mercer Foundation’s annual Cabaret Convention (October 26-28). “Once in a Blue Moon” (Jerome Kern/Anne Caldwell) is a tribute to the organization’s namesake. Tiptoeing piano and dusky vocal make this delicious.

Tonight’s encore is Henry Krieger/Bill Russell’s “I Will Never Leave You.” Savoring each promise, the song is suffused with aspiration.  Officer’s left hand opens, extends, fingers splay, touch a knee, circle the air, curl. An orchestration.

Welcome back to a unique talent.

Photos by Jeff Harnar

Philip Officer at Birdland
Director – Bill Russell
MD/Piano – Mark Hartman
Guitar – Kevin Kuhn, Cello-Eric Friedlander

About Alix Cohen (1395 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.