One always hesitates to write that an artist is "better than ever," for the logical response to that might well be, "Well, what was wrong before." In the case of Sue Raney, nothing has ever been wrong with her singing. But yesterday evening at her Marina Del Rey (California) concert she seemed to boost things up just a notch and even top herself. I have witnessed Sue sing numerous times in person, under many circmstances, from intime boite to vast concert hall (when she was touring with Michel Legrand). But last night was the best yet! Aside from Barbra Streisand (a different kettle of stylistic fish altogether), Sue might well be the last woman standing from the Golden Era of mainstream pop/jazz singing. She has been doing all of this big time for more than a half century and even pre-dates the wonderful Marilyn Maye. If not for Sue's artistry, then for just plain old-fashioned tenacity, she deserves some sort of medal. Or at least, a beauty prize.
Backed by a state of the art trio, led by pianist Alan Brodbent (with Putter Smith and Kendall Kaye), Sue worked---it didn't feel like work at all---her way through a 17-song set that clearly held the large outdoor audience spellbound every step of the way. Many of the songs were from her latest (2007) CD, "Heart's Desire," a tribute to Doris Day.
As if all of this weren't enough, the concert setting was that of SoCal's famed boat marina, with vessels floating by in the background of the outdoors concert stage where the concert took place. Sue began singing at just around sunset and when it was all over, the skies were full of stars, none of which glowed any more brightly than she. Except for the flapping of the occasional yacht sail, one could have heard the ping of the proverbial pin drop throughout the entirety of the slightly more than one-hour affair. As much as the enthusiastic applause after every number, this, too, must have done the singer's ol' heart good.
Lest I tumble headlong into a sea of hyperbolic overkill---perhaps I already have?---let me close now with the advice that the next time Sue swings through your area with her copy of the Great American Songbook in tow, do yourself a favor. . .. Last night was free, but even if you had to pay big bucks, it'd be worth it!