×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Michael Feinstein

The annual JVC Jazz Festival opened and high-profile jazz singers appear to be in short supply. It turned out to be a comfortable evening of mixed metaphors, with nary a hint of jazz. This year's fest kicked off a 10-day, 30-concert-plus sked with Michael Feinstein, Broadway diva Elaine Stritch and an Arab-Jewish octet.

With:
Conductors: Alan Broadbent, John Oddo. Guests: Elaine Stritch, the Arab-Jewish Ensemble.

Traditionally, the annual JVC Jazz Festival opened the season with Mel Torme, a jazz singer of the first order. Well, times have changed since the Velvet Fog died, and high-profile jazz singers appear to be in short supply. With a focus on gate receipts, this year’s fest kicked off a 10-day, 30-concert-plus sked with cabaret crooner Michael Feinstein, Broadway diva Elaine Stritch and a folksy Arab-Jewish octet. It turned out to be a comfortable evening of mixed metaphors, with nary a hint of jazz, unless one counts Feinstein on bended knee emulating Al Jolson, the “jazz singer,” bellowing “Swanee.”

Feinstein displays a firm and flexible light baritone, smooth sophisticated charm and an elfin sense of humor. On the concert stage, he prefers to perform as a standup singer, leaving keyboard duties to former Rosemary Clooney sideman John Oddo.

Feinstein has come a long way since his Algonquin debut at the hallowed Oak Room in 1986, taking the art of saloon singing to the nation’s great concert halls. Seldom straying from familiar Tin Pan Alley territory, Feinstein sang selections from the classic American song repertoire, repped by the likes of Harold Arlen, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins.

What distinguished his performance from his intimate club appearances was the presence of a sprawling 70-piece orchestra, alternately providing a velvety cushion of strings and the big bite of a crisp brass section. Conductor Alan Broadbent provided richly tailored new arrangements of the standards; “Stormy Weather,” in particular, was framed in a lushly enveloping setting. “I Love a Piano,” a Feinstein staple, was bigger and brassier than ever before, with the orchestra pushing the singer to a heightened swinging plateau. (The concert coincided with the release of the singer’s new Concord CD with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.)

Feinstein has exhumed one of the great Manhattan anthems, “Every Street’s a Boulevard in Old New York,” a mayoral salute to the Gotham of Jimmy Walker, from the 1953 Jule Styne tuner “Hazel Flagg.” In a warming bow to Ol’ Blue Eyes, who frequently graced the Carnegie Hall stage, Feinstein sang “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” the definitive torch tune by Styne and Sammy Cahn and a teary Sinatra classic.

The remarkable gift one receives from a Feinstein performance is that verses, second choruses and previously unpublished lyrics often are revealed. That’s always a decided joy.

Feinstein rendered warming acknowledgements to the presence in the house of songwriters Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Jerry Herman and 90-year-old Jack Lawrence (“Tenderly”). For Herman, Feinstein gushingly proclaimed “I Won’t Send Roses” his personal fave. Feinstein dedicated the Dietz-Schwartz ballad “By Myself” to Comden and Green, who wrote the screenplay for “The Bandwagon,” which the singer considers the best film musical ever made.

Feinstein’s special guest was Elaine Stritch, hot on the heels of her acclaimed Tony-winning solo Broadway turn. Stritch sang the stripteaser’s lament “I Wanna Get Married,” a song introduced by Ziegfeld Follies vet Gertrude Niesen in the 1944 show “Follow the Girls.” With a gutsy deadpan delivery, she mined the droll, insinuating wisdom of the girl who wanted to be “confetti’d and riced.” Stritch joined the host for a playful Sondheim duet of “Side by Side by Side” and “Old Friends.” It was a cozy union and a comforting festival welcome.

Michael Feinstein

Carnegie Hall; 2,804 seats; $75 top

Production: A JVC Jazz Festival production produced by Allen J. Sviridoff. Reviewed June 20, 2002.

Cast: Conductors: Alan Broadbent, John Oddo. Guests: Elaine Stritch, the Arab-Jewish Ensemble.

More Music

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • R. Kelly

    Grand Jury Reportedly Convened in R. Kelly Case

    UPDATED: A grand jury has been convened in Cook County, Illinois, in connection with new allegations against singer R. Kelly, CNN reports, citing two sources close to the case. The latest round of accusations against the singer — who has allegations of sexual misconduct against him dating back 25 years, although he has never been [...]

  • 21 Savage

    21 Savage Talks Possible Deportation, Grammys in New Interview

    After being arrested on Feb. 3 for a visa violation, Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage — whom few people knew was actually a U.K. citizen — spent 10 highly publicized days in ICE detention before being released on Wednesday. The following day, the New York Times sat down with him for an interview in which the [...]

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - February 16

    San Francisco Symphony Ushers in Chinese New Year With Glitzy Gala

    As legend has it: among the Chinese Zodiac’s 12 animals, the pig comes last because it was the final one to arrive to a party thrown by the Jade Emperor — lazy sauntering being a characteristic trait of the animal. The folktale was perhaps less fitting this past Saturday evening, as the San Francisco Symphony [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Phoebe Bridgers Slams Ryan Adams’ ‘Network’

    Phoebe Bridgers Slams Ryan Adams’ ‘Network’ of Enablers

    Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, one of multiple women who accused Ryan Adams of sexual misconduct last week in a New York Times article, issued a statement late Saturday slamming the “network” of people who enabled Adams’ behavior. “It’s been a weird week and I wanted to say a couple things,” she wrote on Instagram. “Thank you [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content