Metropolitan Room May 2014 

Clark Warren - tuxClark Warren: A Man Of Quality - And Spunk

Aristotle said: “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

That self-proclaimed “Lucky So & So,” Clark Warren's new show, Jazz & Standards With A Twist opened with considerable hoopla and a full house at the Metropolitan Room recently (and returns on May 30.) Mr. Warren is a class act. He is a man of quality – and spunk. This senior has a long way to go. And, he'll do it with a twist.

Recalling some familiar standards fused with genuine rarities, Mr. Warren embraces a genre and style we'll never see again. It was the age that offered the likes of boy singers running the gamut from Tex Beneke, Russ Columbo, Woody Herman, Jack Teagarten, Dick Hyman, Bobby Darin and their ilk to big bands that produced even bigger stars like Basie, Crosby, Ellington and Sinatra. All this preceded a few of today's contemporary vocalists who favor standards like Buble' and Connick, Jr. The show was all under the truly brilliant jazz-hot guidance of musicians Dan Furman on piano, Jon Burr on bass and David Silliman on drums. Their dynamic jazz riffs caused several spontaneous outbursts of applause throughout the show.

Now, the handsome, white haired Mr. Clark is of a certain age and in spite of a classic debonair appearance and suave manner, has a terrific youthful sense of humor and thoroughly entertained the crowd throughout the set filled with musical surprises. At a time when so many cabaret shows are organized around strict thematic concepts, it takes a certain spunk to buck the trend and reflect on a lifetime of singing tunes from his past and finding hidden, lost or some new treasures to present. That spunk may be his greatest gift. By its very nature, cabaret is a mixed bag with deep roots in classic standards that came from the golden age of song – and before. Clark carries this mix off with aplomb in a style that's largely missing in the nightclubs today. The results were one heckuva quality (the key word here) show. But, because he lacks the seemingly requisite youth that seems to grab the eyes of many critics, he will surely be overlooked when awards are passed out by the self-anointed experts or assorted screening committees and such. The truth is in terms of “quality cabaret,” Clark Warren's latest show has all the ingredients that go into the finest, award winning shows in cabaret. And, it's not about the voice. He has a supple, lived-in baritone. In fact, if truth be told, while lacking the obvious cache', his vocals are better than Bobby Short's in his latter years (though, in fairness, Mr. Short suffered medical problems that faltered his singing at times.) However, in spite of an occasional vocal glitch, Warren projected an off-kilter musical blend of knowledgeable sophistication, fine phrasing and class that was smooth; one that newcomers could learn from. Early on, he notes that “ … everybody has a different version of what cabaret is … it's real … a heightened form of communication.” This leads into his very jazzy rendition of James Taylor's Mean Old Man, a decidedly odd surprise from one who specializes in songs from the distant past (Mean Old Man is from Taylor's 2002 album October Road.) It proves to be a fun choice and a crowd pleaser. He then segues into the finger snapping Centerpiece by two greats from the last century: Harry (“Sweets”) Edison and Jon Hendricks (who is now 92 years old.) The contrast in the two songs is fascinating. A little explanation of this vast diversity might be welcome as both songs are not well known and decades apart.

Other highlights from the eclectic set include an effective, hot reading of Summertime (Gershwin-DuBose) that featured red hot solos from all members of the trio played against Warren's very cool, laid back delivery on this. This is the evening's highlight. What Are You Afraid Of ? (Segal-Wells) is a seldom heard rarity with warm vocals. Bassist Jon Burr's original Sea Breeze was given a mellow bossa beat that was was infectious. Closing with John Pizzarelli's I Like To Recognize The Tune proves to be quite the winner and turned into a rousing hand clapper.

This show is filled with hidden gems that make it all worthwhile. Let's hope Warren has more cabaret exposure. At times he is quite serious about his work. Other times, he can be an ebullient jazz cut up who doesn't blame it on his youth. He owns who he is and enjoys it – a lucky so and so.

Clark Warren returns to the Metropolitan Room on May 30 at 7:00.

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