A flowery bouquet and a silver framed photograph of Rosemary Clooney graces the grand piano at Feinstein’s at the Regency these evenings. The familiar voice of the late singer is briefly heard in the verse to “Blue Skies” as a prelude to “Reflections of Rosemary,” a cabaret tribute in song performed by Clooney’s daughter-in-law, Debby Boone.
Boone’s debut at the club revealed an attractive vocalist in a well-structured hour of song.
Opening night nerves might have been glimpsed showing at the seams, but the lady sang with confidence and an alluring sense of dedication to the material.
Avoiding the obvious roll call of Clooney hits like “Tenderly” and “Come on-a My House,” Boone chose a selective group of songs by Cy Coleman, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Among the prizes was a bounding, uptempo take on “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” by Andre and Dory Previn, and a lushly gorgeous song by Marc Blitzstein from the doomed 1959 tuner “Juno,” a show that was staged by Boone’s father-in-law, Jose Ferrer. The song, “I Wish It So,” summoning dreams of a better life, was braced by Boone with an enveloping pensive warmth.
Both Clooney and Boone shared a crush for Chet Baker, who was recalled with “Time After Time,” the Jule Styne-Sammy Cahn movie tune introduced by Frank Sinatra in “It Happened in Brooklyn.” A tight muted trumpet solo by Tony Kadleck accented Boone’s sensitive reading of the song.
In addition to Clooney there were tributes to Boone’s grandfather, country legend Red Foley, with Hank Williams’ tears-in-your-beer lament “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and to Ol’ Blue Eyes with Rodgers & Hart’s breakfast blues “It Never Entered My Mind” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” Boone frames the torch tunes with watery-eyed subtlety.
Still another salute goes to Clooney pal Bing Crosby, the crooner who advised lyricists to avoid the traditional endearment “I love you.” Boone links a trio of film tunes by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke to illustrate the point. The essence of romance could not be better defined than as heard in “But Beautiful,” “Moonlight Becomes You” and “Like Someone in Love.”
Most of the songs are packaged in Boone’s Concord CD “Reflections of Rosemary.”
The singer was backed by a crack compliment of musicians including Clooney’s original rhythm team pianist-arranger John Oddo, bassist Jay Leonhardt and drum master Joe Cocuzzo. All were on hand in 1999, when Clooney opened Feinstein’s plush venue.