Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cafe Society Swing

A rockin' live Jazz band on stage, cool-as-cats vocalists, and a wildly true story about the first un-segregated Jazz club in New York City are the ingredients in this impressive walk down memory lane at 59E59 Theaters this month.

Creator Alex Webb takes us on a tour of the talents and musicians who pass through the doors of this magical club at #1 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village in the early 20th century when it wasn't fashionable for blacks and whites to mix, wasn't fashionable to be a liberal (read "red") but it was a time of incredible music and musicians to make their debuts and first grace the world's stage.

All that said, there are some adjustments I think need to be made here.  The musicians and vocalists are magnificent - embodying every character they are there to showcase - such as Billie Holiday, Sara Vaughn and many more.  Unfortunately, the show takes the form of a narrator walking you through the history (as a few different characters).  The script is thin and the actor who portrays this narrator is even thinner. It certainly detracted from the speed, the energy, and potency of the show.  Re-cast with a much more dynamic individual and punched up execution, I think this show as the potential to WOW audiences from beginning to end.

If you like Jazz and want to hear a little-known true story about an incredible club at an historic time in NYC - don't let the narrator issues sway your decision.  Most certainly you'll enjoy the musical performances and learn a tad bit too!

Musicians Alex Webb (Piano/Creator), Mimi Jones (Bass), Shirazette Tinnin (Drums), Allan Harris (Guitar), Camille Thurman (Tenor Sax), Bill Todd (Alto Sax/Clarinet) Benny Benack III (Trumpet), and Brent White (Trombone) - will all knock your socks off.

Vocalists Cyrille Aimee, Allan Harris, and Charenee Wade will transport you back in time with their silky smooth voices.