There’s cause to rejoice when a new jazz club opens. The hoops and hollers on East 58th Street this week emanated from Le Jazz Au Bar, a new downstairs performance space. WBGO jock Michael Bourne, host of “Singers Unlimited,” praised the vision of impresario and club owner, Howard Stein. Opening attraction was vet diva Dee Dee Bridgewater, who is celebrating her fourth year as host of NPR bio-broadcast “JazzSet.” “Incendiary!” Bourne warned in his introduction. “She’ll burst the thermometer with fever,” and that she did.
Bridgewater reprised selections from her CD “This is New — Getting’ Weill’d,” featuring the songs of Kurt Weill. The dark yearnings of the Weill legacy fit snugly into a cellar cabaret, and the intimacy proved to be much more fitting for Weill’s theater songs than the larger venues Bridgewater has been recently appearing in.
Showstopper was “Youkali,” seductively sung with a French intro. The tango was written during Weill’s early ’30s residency in Paris. All that was missing was the stem of a rose in her teeth. “This Is New,” Ira Gershwin’s glorious celebration of romantic awareness from “Lady in the Dark,” was delivered with an exuberance rarely associated with the song. It was enhanced by percussionist Minimo Garay, who complements the performance with rhythmic surprise.
The loping Latin beat for “Speak Low,” and its punctuated scat chorus, was a good fit, and who would believe a romping uptempo beat for “September Song”? An older man’s affection for a younger lady just might provoke cardiac arrest at this tempo, but it was a fresh approach.
Bridgewater enjoys a playful rapport with her audience. For an encore, she took to the streets for Cole Porter’s most Weill-like invitation, “Love for Sale.” Bridgewater sang it with a wanton restlessness that justified Bourne’s intro.
Club is ideal for jazz, with fairly decent sight lines, a reasonably priced menu and good service. Pre-show recorded music went over the top, making casual conversation difficult. Future performing artists include Marlena Shaw and Nicholas Payton (Feb. 11-14); George Shearing (Feb 18-21); Eddie Palmieri and David Sanchez (Feb. 24-27); Kevin Mahogany (March 11-14).