Reviewing Barbara Cook is as easy as one, two, three.
1. Barbara Cook is an incomparable interpreter of the American Songbook.
2. Barbara Cook lives her songs as freshly and honestly the hundreth time she sings them as the first.
3. Barbara Cook is a charming raconteur.
Okay, I guess maybe one, two, three isn't enough. Maybe ten?
4. Barbara Cook is a master at wielding a mike so that it doesn't block her face and the sound is always just right.
5. Barbara Cook is also a master at working a room, embracing people in the furthest nooks and crannies.
6. Barbara Cook is a generous, giving brilliant master classes and nurturing the next generation--and the next and the next.
7. Barbara Cook is open to all sorts of music, from discovering a song on Cathouse: The Series to admiring Lady Gaga's intelligence and voice.
8. Barbara Cook is a master class in aging gracefully.
9. Barbara Cook is funny.
10. Barbara Cook is cool.
Mind you, I know that Cook is not everyone's cup of tea. In fact, I'm not a huge fan of her CDs. But there's something amazing about seeing her in person in a small room: you realize that you are in the presence of greatness--human, confident, self-deprecating greatness.
Cook is currently appearing at Feinstein's with Michael Feinstein (she'll be back solo in April). The night I saw her, Feinstein wasn't there. The first half of the show was similar to the last show she did at Feinstein’s, but with new patter (including a lovely tale of winning the Kennedy Center Honors) and one or two new songs. Highlights included a sensitive "I Got Lost in His Arms," a yearning "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face," and a light and lovely "This Can't Be Love."
And then she announced that she had a surprise for us, and a wonderful surprise indeed: Euan Morton was there to sing a few songs--some solo, some with her. She extolled his rare and amazing natural voice, and Morton is indeed impressively talented. His version of "What'll I Do" (one of my all-time favorite songs) was one of the best I've ever heard. He also sang "Danny Boy" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (wonderful!). His mike handling was some of the best I've seen among under-50 singers; I wonder if Cook gave him some pointers.
Then Cook sang some more solos. The highlight was Molinary and Butler's "Here's to Life," which could be Cook's theme song. She lives that song when she sings it and even when she doesn't.
The show ended with Cook and Morton singing "White Christmas" and then with the whole room joining them. I spend much of December muttering angrily about having Christmas Carols shoved down my throat, but this was pure joy.
If you have never seen Cook, try to do so. She’s really something.
(Press ticket, very nice seats.)