by Mark Lingenfelter
The New York Pops once again proved that mixing an outstanding orchestra with genuinely talented performers singing (and scatting) their way through some really great songs, you’re going to end up with an evening to remember.
In their second concert of the 2015-2016 season, the New York Pops presented “Sophisticated Ladies,” an evening of music celebrating the songs of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn, to name a few. Focusing primarily on the music of the 1920s and 1930s that came out of the Harlem Renaissance, the Pops orchestra, under the skillful and energetic baton of Steven Reineke, got a chance to show off their jazz side, with several players having the opportunity to go solo in jazz riffs and musical improvisations. Guest vocal artists for the evening included Montego Glover, Capathia Jenkins, and Sy Smith.
Ms. Jenkins, who’s Broadway credits include Newsies, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and Caroline, or Change, took the stage to sing two George and Ira Gershwin classics, urging us to “Strike Up the Band” and “Clap Yo’ Hands.” But, it was two songs in the second half where Ms. Jenkins shone best: Johnny Mercer’s “Something’s Gotta Give” and another Gershwin tune: “Summertime.”
On loan from the current Broadway revival of Les Misérables, where she is currently playing Fantine, Ms. Glover sang the McHugh/Fields “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” the Arlen/Mercer “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and left her own mark on “The Best is Yet to Come” (Coleman/Leigh).
But for me, the real stand-out of the evening was Ms. Smith who asked us to sing along as her echo in the Cab Calloway “Zaz Zuh Zaz” and then showed complete versatility going into the Arlen/Koehler “Stormy Weather” accompanied by the Pops’ luscious strings. The highlight of Ms. Smith’s solos was the the Arlen/Mercer tune “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) accompanied by Lee Musiker on piano. The jazz “conversation” between singer and pianist was magical.
The concert ended with all three soloists on stage together, tag-teaming their way through “Blues in the Night” (Arlen/Mercer). To see the three onstage together at the same time with the Pops was the ultimate finale: Jenkins’s beaming smile as she sang, Glover’s power notes, Smith’s vocal stylings, Reineke’s energetic cut-offs… no, no, they can’t take that away from me.
Don’t miss the following events with The New York Pops:
It’s Christmas Time in the City
December 18 & 19
Featuring Stephanie J. Block, Brian D’Arcy James, and Essential Voices USA
42nd on 57th: Broadway Today
Featuring Jeremy Jordan and Betsy Wolf
Lights, Camera, Action: Spielberg and Williams
Steven Reineke, Musical Director and Conductor