Under the collective title of “Rhythm and Romance,” Gotham troubadour Steve Ross boasts a flexible repertoire of love songs that express varied emotions. The suave and savvy veteran of cabaret crooning suggests his bracing collection of theater and film songs can be easily categorized under the collective reflections “I was in love,” “I am in love” or “I want to be in love.” In his return engagement at the posh Stanhope Park Regency, Ross is a personable host for a lyrical stroll down lovers’ lane.
A staple of Manhattan’s cabaret scene for more than four decades, Ross exudes great charm, sings with an appealing light baritone and plays piano with a flowery grace and dizzying assurance. Ross balances an expansive body of songs from the 1920s and ’30s that reach forward into the more contemporary terrain of Jim Croce, Maury Yeston and Stephen Sondheim.
And when is the last time you heard all of Cole Porter’s deliciously clever verses for “It’s De-Lovely”? It goes on forever, with five choruses boasting a heady dose of je ne sais quoi.
Just when you thought you’d heard quite enough of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” Ross takes you back into the circus ring for yet another chance to reflect upon life’s romantic misfortunes.
When it comes to the legacy of Noel Coward, there is no cabaret singer in town to match Ross’ interpretive skills. From his wildly irreverent antics of “The Bar on the Piccolo Marina” to the ardent confessionals of “I’ll See You Again” and “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart,” Ross targets both the funnybone and the heart with accuracy.
Yeston’s “Unusual Way” from “Nine” also summons a trembling heartbeat, as does Jerry Herman’s “It Only Takes a Moment.”
There are many more pleasures here. A racing tempo braced by dazzling piano runs complements Irving Berlin’s “Let Yourself Go,” while Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight” is rendered as a most captivating romantic observation.
For sheer unadulterated fun, “Last Night on the Back Porch — I Loved Her Most of All” is a giddy showstopper. It’s a mere eight decades old and the art of kissing has never been more delightfully defined.
This time around, Ross has the luxury of Brian Kassier’s full-bodied bass accompaniment to provide a nice cushion for the expansive hour that Ross fills so luxuriously.