Stacey Kent at Birdland – Finesse

Stacey Kent might have the voice of a faerie (British spelling)- light, graceful, controlled and so natural it’s as if the artist were being played like an instrument. Music seems to pass through her as she stands before us slightly shimmering with the pleasure of it. Kent and husband Jim Tomlinson (producer/writer/arranger/musician) bring to mind the Ovid quote, We two form a multitude. Harmony, respect, and affection are omnipresent.

Tonight’s show offers few surprises. There are numbers by Tom Jobim/Gene Lees, Jacques Brel, and Marcos Valle – with whom the pair toured on the anniversary of his 50th professional year. Kent sings equally well in English, French, and Portuguese.

Slightly bouncing in place, the vocalist performs “Girl From Ipanema,” “Corcovado” (both Tom Jobim/Vinicius De Morales/ Gene Lees) and “Dindi” (Tom Jobim/Gene Lees). An authentic shushhh sound is exhaled. The word smiles extends and fades as if airbrushed. Tomlinson’s mellow sax adds smooth ribbons of melody. Hirahara’s upper key samba arrives like the white caps of small waves on one, tiptoes on another. Hubbard’s nuanced bass thrums. “Dindi” is deeply felt, thankful, not giddy, as often performed. Flute floats. Pinciotti’s brushes circle.

A happy “Make It Up” (Jim Tomlinson/Cliff Goldmacher) finds the sax player arching forward knees bent, then straightening up as if powered by a bellows. Kent marches in place appearing tickled/goosed…And it’s been this way so long/That if we knew what we were doing/We’d be doing it all wrong/So let’s just make it up as we go along… She almost giggles.

Rio Carnivale is evoked with the buoyant “Upa Neguinho” (Edu Lobo) which stimulates chair dancing. Sax swings, Tomlinson claps like a Flamenco dancer.        The band is having a good time. In similar fete mode, Harry Warren/Al Dubin’s “Shadow Waltz” from Gold Diggers of 1933  is quick, neat, and fancy-footed.

“Face I Love” (Marcos Valle) begins a slow waltz. Piano is fluid. Sax spirals and loop-de-loops around the tune, now alone, now playfully echoing Kent. “If You Go Away” (Jacques Brel/Hal McKuen) wafts in almost a stage whisper indicating a thought too terrible to allow credence. Kent shakes her head no. She looks fearful. Vibrato is tremulous.

“Ces Petits Riens” (Serge Gainsbourg) emerges in short French phrases with a steady beat. The vocalist translates its title: “To Be in Love with You, I Must Be Half Crazy.” It’s 50s hip.

Also cool is the very contemporary “Bullet Train” (Jim Tomlinson/Kazuo Ishiguro) about a serendipitous, stop time meeting of two lovers. They call this the bullet train/but it feels like we’re not moving…Percussive noir melody belies the lyric. Tomlinson’s soprano sax adds edge. Kent performs as if there, experiencing something she doesn’t quite understand.

In the songbook realm, we’re treated to “I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before” (Roger Kellaway/Marilyn and Alan Bergman) which, in this rendition, thoughtfully reflects on a break up rather than complaining and a tender, evocative version of “Stardust” (Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parrish) closing the show like drifting feathers.

New CD: I Know I Dream: Orchestral Sessions

Photos by Diane Sagnier

Stacey Kent at Birdland
Stacey Kent-Vocals
Jim Tomlinson-MD/Flute, Sax, Clarinet
Art Hirahara-Piano, Tom Hubbard-Bass, Anthony Pinciotti-Drums
December 12, 2018
Venue Calendar 

About Alix Cohen (1287 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine 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, 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.