Monday, June 15, 2009

The Thrill of Them All

To appropriate a few lyrics from Johnny Mercer:

When the angels ask us to recall
the thrill of them all
we shall tell them,
We remember Marilyn Maye.

Simply put, there is no one on the nightclub, cabaret, concert or theater scene who can touch this 81 year old dynamo. No one. Her voice is a force of nature: as big as the Grand Canyon, deep as the Pacific, and warmer than July. She has consistently amazed and delighted us with her annual appearances at The Metropolitan Room; but we were honestly astonished by the magnificence of her latest triumph, a tribute to master lyricist Johnny Mercer.

To begin with, Ms. Maye looked splendid: svelte and chic in a very 1950's, Dior-esque belted satin jacket with a standaway collar, paired with trim black sequined slacks. She was clearly "on" from the moment she took to the stage, declaring that this would be "My Shining Hour." It was, and for the next hour and a half, she wove absolute magic.

Picking a highlight from an act filled with nothing but is as difficult as picking your favorite child or pet; but off the top of our heads, we'd have to mention stunning (and we mean stunning) renditions of "Blues in the Night," "When the World Was Young," "I Wanna Be Around," "I Remember You," "Something's Gotta Give," "Skylark" - oh, hell, the entire show. 

For the record, it takes a very special performer to tackle the signature songs of a bona fide legend and make them their own: but that's exactly what Marilyn Maye did with Sinatra's "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," delivered as a wry character study of  a down-but-not-out lady lush.

Special mention must be made of Maye's superb trio: pianist/leader Tedd Firth, whose virtuosity on the keys matches Maye's vocal feats of derring-do perfectly; charming bassist Tom Hubbard; and the man who has been with Ms. Maye longer than all of her husbands combined, her 40-year drummer man, Jim Eklof. Not only are these men excellent musicians, but they are clearly delighted to be performing with a singer who knows her stuff and can rise to any musical challenge.

The New York Times (and Ms. Maye herself) referred to the fact that her opening night on Friday had run a bit long: over two hours and encompassing 35 songs. When we saw her last night, she had trimmed back; and as much as we wish we had been there to see and hear everything, that's the hallmark of a great entertainer: leave 'em wanting more. 

We return to The Metropolitan next Sunday to see Marilyn Maye one more time before the end of her run; if you have the opportunity, do not miss her. She's the one fail-safe recommendation we can give you without any reservations. In a field littered with half-baked newcomers and tired veterans trading on past glories, Marilyn Maye is the genuine article. Like Mr. Mercer, she's just too marvelous for words.


  1. "In a field littered with half-baked newcomers and tired veterans trading on past glories..."
    Oh TJB, who can you possibly be referring to?
    Thanks for the superb reportage. Marilyn Maye
    does give one a feeling of hope.

  2. Honestly, Brenda Starr, you're SOME reporter! Thankee!

  3. I read your post this morning and within a few minutes I was listening to her fabulous rendition of "Misty"...and then another and another and another...and soon I was late. But it was worth it.

  4. Fantastic review! I wish I was there, it sounds like it was a wonderful show.

  5. TW - Don't be naughty.

    normadesmond - Thank you!

    MC - Brenda Starr! LOL! That shall be your pet name for me henceforth.

    Jason - Marilyn told a cute story of how her one personal (sort of) encounter with Johnny Mercer came when she was recording at Webster Hall in the 1960's; one of the engineers passed her a note, handwritten on a torn piece of notebook paper: "Yours is the greatest version of 'Misty'. Johnny Mercer." Maye paused, then remarked, "And he didn't even write that song!"

    Marc - She just keeps getting better and better; it's absolutely astonishing.


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