Ronny Whyte makes it all seem effortless. Like a magician after privately practicing thousands of hours, onstage performance flows without hesitation, stress or self-consciousness. He’s warm, poised, ever elegant, and glad to be here; a veteran artist in his element.
“The Way You Look Tonight” (Jerome Kerm/Dorothy Fields) opens with a superb arrangement featuring the eloquent Scott Hardy on bass. Scat is eaazeee. Whyte looks and sounds besotted. It’s unhomogenized hip. Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song” finds him at the piano. Tempo sways, notes arrive like dappled light; bass is resonant, Ray Marchica’s drums brushhhh in eddies. The vocalist’s eyes close in deep reflection.
“Blizzard of Lies” (Samantha and Dave Frishberg) is uncomfortably apt: We must have lunch real soon, your luggage is checked through/We’ve got inflation licked I’ll get right back to you/It’s just a standard form tomorrow without fail
Pleased to meet you, thanks a lot, your check is in the mail…Whyte offers wry, succinct delivery.
The band is then joined by pianist Cecelia Coleman and horn player Ron Horton. “Forget the Woman” (Ettore Stratta/ Ronny Whyte) includes precisely textured instrumental. A Bossa Nova “Linger Awhile” (Ronny Whyte/Roger Shore), showcases the performer’s tendency to leave last lyrics drifting in the air. These songs remind us of his adroit writing skill. Both are timeless and simply lovely. Watching the shadows dance on the ceiling/Are they as happy as I’m feeling… Whyte’s written. Compromise in neither poetry nor meaning.
Cecelia Coleman, Ronny Whyte, Scott Hardy, Ray Marchica, Ron Horton
Gordon Park’s eloquent “Don’t Misunderstand”: Don’t misunderstand me/You are no concern of mine/But in case you’re free sometime…is not only as Whyte puts it, “a song of seduction,” but also sadly indicative of the way people ‘hook up’ these days- with a shrug. At the other end of the spectrum is “All My Tomorrows” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn), a universal ballad Whyte sang on tour with the show Our Sinatra. It’s a smoky, wistful appeal with haunting, muted trumpet.
Style is understated and sincere, lyrics convincing in Whyte’s perimeter. Only arms, hands and eyebrows move as emotions are channeled where they belong, in singing/communicating, yet he’s never stiff. The artist beams with appreciation observing Coleman play.
“For the Life of Me” (Arthur Schwartz/Ira Gershwin) is percussion painted, mid-tempo swing. One of our best, Marchica strikes out on his own solo path, loose but sure; infectiously buoyant; original.
Whyte ends with three selections from his most recent CD, Whyte Witchcraft-Songs of Cy Coleman: a flirty cha-cha, a flannel ballad, and swing. His encore, “Give Me the Simple Life” (Rube Bloom/Harry Ruby) pollinates the club with high spirits.
Opening Photo Courtesy of Birdland; Second photo Karen Oberlin
Ronny Whyte- Vocals/Piano
Cecelia Coleman- Piano
Ron Horton- Flugelhorn