This musical smorgasbord, combining the considerable talents of jazz harpist/pianist/thrush Corky Hale and Broadway diva Jennifer Leigh Warren, may have been billed as “A New Cabaret Show,” but it more closely resembles an informal gab-and-vocal fest around the piano. After ambling through a loosely harmonized show-opening “Sisters” by Irving Berlin, the ladies work their way through a dozen more tunes while shrugging away such mishaps as false starts, a recalcitrant sound system and the temperature-affected harp strings.
The pair are at their best when power-lunged Warren (Broadway’s “Big River,” “Little Shop of Horrors”) is soloing, with Hale providing sumptuous support on harp or piano. Warren’s vocal versatility is amply displayed with softly introspective, rubato outings on “If I Should Lose You” and the folk ballad “Black is the Color,” with Hale’s harp underscoring with a lush kaleidoscope of harmonies. With Hale switching to piano, Warren kicks it up a notch with a wonderfully accusatory “Alfie.”
Warren also can wail, as she proves with a driving rendition of “Kansas City,” with the Jabara/Venz duo driving the beat while Hale punches out peppy Count Basie-like riffs on the harp. The diva then shows her raunchy side with “Dr. Long John,” a funky blues ode to her favorite dentist (“who knows how to thrill me when he drills me”).
Hale, who has performed with a vast range of artists from Billie Holiday to Barbra Streisand to Bjork, puts her solo harp chops on display with an inventive reworking of “Here’s That Rainy Day,” with just enough support from bassist Venz. Adding Jabara to the mix, Hale proves the harp can swing as she powers through the Rodgers & Hart standard “Where or When.”
Providing solid empathetic support all the way are pianist Marty Jabara and bassist Steve Venz.