Friday, October 15, 2010

Paula West and the George Mesterhazy Quartet

The lovely Paula West sings with elegance, commitment, and understanding. She presents her music as someone might present a gift, and the songs, ranging from Rodgers and Hart to Bob Dylan, are indeed gifts, sometimes playful, sometimes serious, always sung with intelligence and style. Particular highlights include Irving Berlin's "Suppertime," sung with heart-breaking simplicity, Dylan's evocative "Shelter From the Storm," and the effervescent Arlen-Harburg "I Love to Singa." Perhaps the biggest strength of the evening is that the George Mesterhazy Quartet does not "back up" West; instead, each musician makes a superb individual contribution, whether playing ensemble or in solos. Jerome Jennings plays drums with a level of imagination, finesse, and attention to detail that adds up to magic, particularly during Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Francis Webster's "Baltimore Oriole." And if guitarist Ed Cherry ever chooses to headline an evening of his own, I will be the first one there. The clarity and emotion of his playing are what guitar playing should be. Paula West and the George Mesterhazy Quartet are at Feinstein's at Loews Regency through October 16 and then again November 22 to 27. Do yourself a favor--catch them.

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