There are evenings in a reviewer's life when the mind is replenished, the soul is uplifted and the blood sings. You've just witnessed an ingenious performance and can't wait to get home and write about it, even though you feel you cannot possibly capture the spirit of the evening with your feeble prose. Such an event occurred last evening. Permit me to set the scene, The Algonquin Hotel at holiday time. You stroll into the famous lobby gazing at guests sipping scotches against the backdrop of beauteous regency furniture, antique wall tapestries and exotic rugs. As you turn into the entrance to the Oak Room you steal a glance at the alcove where the legendary roundtable writers held court during the halcyon days of New York's chic aristocracy. As you are seated at one of the Oak Room's sumptuous tables the memory of many night's performances at this historic boite flashes through your mind and already you are sated with cultural glee. Not a bad way to start off an evening of writing work.
No performer captures the essence of this patrician elegance like Barbara Carroll. Since she began performing in Gotham during the 40's with her trio at the Downbeat club alongside the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell, Ms. Carroll has graced the bandstands of the city's landmark piano rooms with unequaled repertorial breadth. She segues from Bird's "Billy's Bounce" to Cy Coleman's "I'm in love again" with a stylistic aplomb unmatched in the business. Her verse/chorus juxtapositions (lines from Gershwin's "Prelude in C sharp" previewing Duke's "Autumn In New York") are scholarly and her improvisations are intriguingly imaginative. During the scintillating set at the Oak Room Ms. Carroll set her usual standard of refinement and taste but never stopped swinging as she uncovered hidden treasures in the poetry of Sondheim, Fats Waller and Peggy Lee. Her patter included delicious anecdotes of Dorothy Parker who had once presided over the historic Roundtable, just a few feet from the Oak Room stage. She joined her inestimable bassist Jay Leonhart in a playful duet version of "A Fine Romance" and throughout the evening provided authoritative commentary with warm obeisance to her musical benefactors and inviting intimacy to her audience.
Barbara Carroll appears at the Algonquin on Sundays with an afternoon set at 2:00 PM and an evening set at 8:00 PM. If you're planning a holiday visit to Manhattan, Barbara Carroll at the Oak Room should be your first port of call. Visit her website at www.barbaracarroll.com .
Throughout his long career, Jimmy Cavallo has managed to master more American music styles than any saxophonist/singer I know. From Coltrane/Rollins and "Tenor Madness" to Louis Prima's "Oh Marie" to Alan Freed pioneer memorabilia Cavallo has provided as comprehensive a musical survey for his audiences as any such performer in the business. His septuagenarian legacy has run the gamut from gigs alongside Clifford Brown to movies with Chuck Berry and La Vern Baker and his nightclub fans continue to scream with glee as he recreates the world of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Recently on tour in Italy he rocked with Bill Haley's Comets and in England he received a W.C. Handy nomination as comeback artist of the year. His home club is Doogie's in Florida's Deerfield Beach but, at 76, he continues to tour and record everywhere. Presently, his CDs are available on the Blue Wave label .