Review by Roger Crane
"Writing about vocalists of the quality of singers Pinky Winters, Sue Raney, Kurt Reichenbach and Michael Dees is a joy. These four were a perfect choice to celebrate the canon of the Gershwin brothers at a recent Kirk Douglas Theater concert [February 14] sponsored by the Jazz Bakery [in Culver City, CA].
The singers and the songs were a match made in songbook heaven. Each vocalist transformed the songs so that. even if you've been listening to them for over 55 years - as I have - new beauty is uncovered. Their versions were faithful to the composers' intent, imaginative, and accompanied by supportive and highly-regarded musicians, namely pianist Jim Cox, Putter Smith at his bass and Ralph Penland at the drumset. Trombonist Bill Reichenbach also accompanied on selected tunes. Cox provided the stellar arrangements and each chart had just the right tempo and melodic embellishment.
The evening opened with the beloved standard "I Got Rhythm," on which all four singers took a chorus or two. I won't discuss each selection but will briefly mention a few, namely Dees' fine renditions of the much beloved "Love Is Here to Stay" and "Foggy Day." But some unjustly overlooked gems were also included, such as "I've Got Beginner's Luck, which Winters, a songwriter's best friend, sings so well. Sue Raney's warm timbre was perfect for "The Man I Love."
After George's untimely death at only 38 years old, brother Ira worked with other composers and Kurt brought his relaxed natural baritone to "This Is New" which has a lovely melody by Kurt Weill. Wherever George and Ira might be, it is certain they are smiling in appreciation of how well and how joyfully their songs were treated.
Hearing Gershwin songs sung by accomplished vocalists on Valentine's Day was perfection. If that sounds too reverent, let me change the praise to "perfectly wonderful." This concert was well organized and with entertaining commentary by producer Bill Reed. We lovers of the Great American Songbook can hope that this concert is repeated and that future concerts addressing other masters are developed."
LA Jazz Scene
Heckman's International Review of Music
All About Jazz