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Cabaret Review: "Michael Feinstein"

by Jonathan Warman


Michael Feinstein just keeps getting better: the man is without a doubt in the best voice of his career. He’s consistently gained new vocal strength, and now he’s really soaring and belting with the best of them. In his latest cabaret show Cool Swing he brings together a set of the timeless standards that he's known for --- of which he is arguably the greatest defender and conservator --- and rearranged them with music director John Oddo in classic swing style.

“Cool swing” is a bit of an odd phrase: swing music is by definition hot, and when you think of cool jazz you think of something that, while still rhythmically exciting, doesn't swing particularly hard. “Cool swing,” however, could practically define the style of John Oddo's arrangements, not just here, but everywhere. Oddo's arrangements are always elegant and tasteful, but there is also always a restrained passion and rhythmic excitement in them.

Cool Swing, then, finds Feinstein fully inhabiting Oddo's style and making it his own. The show opens with the standard “Too Close for Comfort”. Michael doesn't give the familiar interpretation, which favors playing rhythmically with the song's complex melody. Instead, he really pays attention to the lyrics, which are in fact pretty uneasy. Obvious, right? Discomfort is right there in the song title --- yet somehow I had never really noticed it. Feinstein “swings it lightly,” while giving the cautious reserve of the lyrics full play. Cool swing, indeed.

Michael’s special guest is virtuoso Andy Stein, who plays classic jazz violin, which adds yet another layer of cool. Still, just under the surface of this sophisticated show runs the unstoppable optimism that pervades all of Feinstein's work. For example he sings “I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” which he recently recorded with Oddo. For this show they've opened up the arrangement some, giving reed player Aaron Heick and trumpeter Tony Kadleck lots of room for joyous Dixieland-style soloing.

Whether they're cooling out a hot hit, or swinging a cool tune, Feinstein, Oddo and company put on a really engaging show that adds chic fun to the summer season, without breaking a sweat.

One week only, through 6/19. For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.blog.


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