Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Michael Feinstein & Barbara Cook "Cheek to Cheek"

Photo: Mike Martin

Considering that they both have devoted their lives to the American Songbook, Barbara Cook and Michael Feinstein make a surprisingly odd couple. While Cook uses her voice in service to the songs, Feinstein uses the songs in service to his voice. As a result, each piece that Cook sings reflects the unique life of the unique song, while most of the songs that Feinstein sings get the start-slow-and-soft-and-end-fast-and-loud treatment (an exception being his delicate treatment of Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich's beautiful "Ever After"). I prefer Cook's approach--there's a reason that many people (including Feinstein) consider her the preeminent interpreter of the American Songbook--though Feinstein is in fine voice and his love of the songs is evident. The short evening (70 minutes) combines solos and duets and runs the gamut from well-loved standards ("Tea for Two," "Cheek to Cheek," "I've Got You Under My Skin") to lesser known finds such as the sweet and touching "Here's to Life" by Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary. The between-song patter ranges from mutual-admiration-society declarations of love to funny professional and personal anecdotes; unfortunately, it is hard to hear some of the patter in parts of the room. The wonderful back-up band includes musical director John Oddo, Aaron Heick on reeds, George Rabbai on trumpet, Warren Odze on drums, and David Finck on bass.

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