Charlie Poveromo and the Barry Levitt Quartet (CP&BLQ) played the Metropolitan Room on August 10 to a packed house and a rousing response. Poveromo is a “discovery” of Bernie Furshpan who owns and manages the Met Room. The two of them filled the room with friends; still, the audience response was unforced and wildly enthusiastic.
The CP&BLQ confounds expectations in a number of ways. First the mix of musicians is uncommon – even in New York. Barry Levitt, musical director and accompanist, has been in the business for over four decades and has worked with such notables as Eartha Kitt and Judy Collins; Jeff Carney, on bass, worked with Streisand; Jack Cavari, on guitar, worked with Frank Sinatra; Ronnie Zito, on percussion, with Bobby Darin. These are particularly strong sidemen to be gathered in a bunch – each with assurance, experience and “chops”; each capable of drawing focus. Together they produce a spectacular sound – loud, driving, pulsating, often scintillating. And the quartet, with all of their experience and pedigree, were of a mind and discipline to serve this singer – taking no extended solo flights but skillfully and subtly embellishing the accompaniment when and where suitable – producing frequently unacknowledged but real rewards.
And at the microphone stands Charlie Poveromo, a 20 year old from Staten Island, slight, slim, suitably Italianate, looking like a strong breeze would carry him off; yet confident, brassy, and big in every other way. Poveromo is as assured off stage as on and, during the sound check, introduced himself while I am snapping pictures. I don’t know if it is his heritage, or the streets of Brooklyn and Staten Island, or his family, or his talent or the constant reassurance of his community – but something in his upbringing gave this “kid” an outlook we would all like to imbue in our children.
Vocally he projects an impression, but yet not an imitation, of the men on whom he models his style (Darin, Martin, Bennett, Sinatra – you get the idea). Yet in one-to-one conversation Poveromo is notably present, affable and unassuming. He has a voice and a talent; neither are yet fully matured or disciplined but the promise is evident. And with Levitt and Furshpan to guide him, he has significant prospects of major success – as the music and style of the era is refreshed and revived.
Poveromo is an avowed fan of Bobby Darin (who, if memory serves, he resembles): “Bobby Darin left behind a legacy which will not be forgotten – as long as I’m singing.” Poveromo opened with a Bobby Darin classic, “As Long as I’m Singing” – and had the audience clapping along within 8 bars. A performance of “Ace in the Hole” (Panico, Schoebel) ala Dean Martin (also a Bobby Darin number) followed with some of the original’s glissandos and melismas. Next “That’s All” (Tharpe, Rosetta), “Rags to Riches” (Adler, Ross), “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head” (Van Heusen, Cahn) – were performed as if for the Palladium – snapping, bopping, winking, and voiced for the rafters. There is a fragrance of Las Vegas about the CP&BLQ production, perhaps a conscious souvenir of the Rat Pack. And the patter aims for the smart-alec snap of the Rat Pack as well: “You can snap your fingers, clap your hands, kick the waiters. That’s okay as long as you do it in tempo.” Songs we rarely hear today but which filled the airwaves decades ago were reinvigorated, and brashly performed: “Goody, Goody” (Mercer, Malneck), “Splish Splash” (Darin, Murray), “That’s Life” (Duke, harburg), “Mack the Knife” (Brecht, Brecht, Weill, Blitzstein).
If I had a problem with the show as a whole it was for a lack of emotional range, but Poveromo may grow into that. (At one point in the evening, Poveromo described having recently suffered his “first big heart break” – at which a number of my generation in the audience chuckled with sympathy but knowledge of what greater depths he has yet to plumb.) Levitt, with his broad experience, might well point the direction here. Even a performance of “Let Me Try Again” (Cahn, Anka), a tender and gentler song than most on the program, was sung with the same firm, powerful exposition, and with as little concern for nuance, as any other number. And Poveromo also has to learn to be still at appropriate times; that less is often more. Nonetheless one has to admire the current talent and significant potential. The encore number, “Lazy River” (Carmichael, Arodin), was begun a capella, and on key; the patter was constant and had an edge; the voice is powerful and solid, the pace was crisp and the energy was high.
Poveromo grew up in a community and family (many in attendance) with strong character which has reinforced in him a style that has served him well in that context. However it may be time for him to find his own if he will expand his audience. This young man is a natural entertainer – by personality and practice; now he has a little work to do discovering himself and finding his emotional footing in the music he so admires. This show may not be eveyone’s cup of tea, but Poveromo can hardly be said to be less than engaging and, in some way, energizing. It will be interesting to see how he grows as a performer. Poveromo is next appearing at the Metropolitan Room on September 14 and November 13; check the calendar for times.