This is a double CD which comes from live sessions by Michael Feinstein at New York's Regency Hotel in April of 2000. The remaining tracks are studio sessions. All of it, as the album title advertises, is Feinstein's interpretations of standards from the Great American Songbook that were introduced or at least given notoriety on a Broadway stage or in a Hollywood film. It never ceases to amaze me how much Feinstein sounds like Johnny Mathis, communicating that intense, emotional feeling that one generally associates with Mathis. His vibrato and the way he uses it to emphasize phrases, the way he often ends the song going up the scale, rather then dropping as say Sinatra did, the high-pitched voice, all bring the inestimable Mathis to mind. And like Mathis, Feinstein's voice is beautiful, completely suited for the program he has selected .
This is not vocal jazz and I'm sure Feinstein would agree. There is little use of dynamics, scatting or other wordless vocalizing, risk taking or other features which characterize those who sing jazz or even sing jazzy. Generally, I subscribe to the definition of a jazz singer as one who sings songs that other jazz singers sing and perform with people who play jazz. This CD is a notable exception. Many of the tunes are part of the jazz repertoire and certainly Feinstein is accompanied by top drawer jazz artists. The piano roster alone is impressive with Alan Broadbent, Page Cavanaugh, Marian McPartland and John Oddo who among them have backed such singers as Mel Torme, Irene Kral, Rosemary Clooney and Marlene Ver Planck to name just a few. There are cuts where Feinstein foregoes piano and sings with a trio as on "Darn That Dream" with Warren Vaché's cornet, Bucky Pizzarelli's guitar and Jay Leonhart's bass as instrumental backdrop. Occasionally the instruments seem out of place with the romantic aura, like Gary Foster's alto on "I've Never Been in Love Before".
This almost 2 hour set represents New York cabaret at its most earnest. For fans of this genre, it is a must buy. Johnny Mathis devotees will go for it too.
Personnel: Michael Feinstein - Vocals/Piano; Alan Broadbent, Page Cavanaugh, Marian McPartland, John Oddo - Piano; George Rabbai - Flugelhorn/Trumpet; Mark Vinci - Tenor Sax/Clarinet/Flute; Gary Foster - Alto Sax/Clarinet/Flute; Dan Block - Alto and Tenor Sax; Warren Vach