Songs for a Summer Night – Carole J. Bufford

Fireworks arrived early this year in the dynamic form of Carole J. Bufford and her excellent band. Most summer songs, the vocalist points out, are set during the day and irrepressibly cheery. While the artist herself is upbeat, performance choices lean toward the dark. Original compilation bears an iconoclastic stamp. “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” (Irving Berlin for Easter Parade), for example, is transported to New Orleans where its pumped up vitality marches rather than taps.

Bongos, thrum/thrum bass and punctuating piano unbutton “Fever” (John Davenport/Eddie Cooley), vocally a slow burn. Nobody does seductive better than Bufford. “Teach Me Tonight” (Sammy Cahn/ Gene DePaul) emerges sultry. The performer’s magnetic focus fixes now on this person, now on that; she connects. Eyes crinkle, hips are patted, arms imply. Piano solo is lush.

“I think of these two songs as things that go bump n’ grind in the night,” introduces Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and Joe Josea/BB King’s “Rock Me Baby.”: Omonna wait till the midnight hour, she sings with Motown inflection. Bass plays big stitches, drums go wide. Piano boogies. “Summer in the City” (John Sebastian/Mark Sebastian/Steve Boone) has similar period groove. The vocalist wriggles, bounces, and infectiously enjoys. She unerringly knows what to emphasize. Piano lands emphatic.

Carole J. Bufford; Tom Hubbard, Carole J. Bufford

Bufford is intrigued by song origins. “No Moon at All” was apparently written by David Mann and Redd Evans drunk one inky night. Having left a bar, unable to find their hotel, the collaborators wandered into a church and improvised on an organ. Here, it swings.

“I Spy” (Carole J. Bufford) is pure film noir: Let’s play a game of I Spy/I spy that twinkle in your eye/I see that you want me… vividly presents a woman on the prowl. “Summer Wind” (“Der Sommerwind” Heinz Maier/Hans Bradtke; Johnny Mercer, English) slips in on bowed bass. Piano waves roll and curl. Lyrics have a patina. “The Summer Knows” (Michel Legrand/Alan & Marilyn Bergman) languidly stretches wrapped in sepia memories.

“Walking After Midnight” (Don Hecht) rose to #2 in country and #12 in pop giving Patsy Cline the first crossover charted song. A southern woman, the artist has an almost conspiratorial feel for country. Vocal is breathy, lower, elastic. Step, tap, step, tap, she moves sinuously across the stage. Ian Herman shows the piano who’s boss. His always impressive musicianship is showcased this outing. Texture is rich, imaginative.

The first song Bufford ever performed before an audience takes us from summer to fall. “Shine On Harvest Moon” (Nora Bayes/Jack Norworth) surprises with a sophisticated arrangement which, despite lyrics, takes it far from ‘chestnut’ persona. Phrases are suddenly pithy.

We close with an arrangement of “Summertime” (George and Ira Gershwin/ Dubose and Dorothy Heyward) based on the Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company version- which itself was inspired by Bach’s Prelude in C Minor. Tensile vocal squeezes, soars, hangs in the air and plunges. Whew!

Photos Alix Cohen

Songs for a Summer Night – Carole J. Bufford
Ian Herman – MD/Piano
Tom Hubbard – bass; Howie Gordon – drums
Arrangements by Ian Herman and Carole J. Bufford

Birdland
315 West 44th Street

About Alix Cohen (1793 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.