- CHARITY BENEFIT
Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
Clark Warren, whom I first met when we both apprenticed in the late 50s at the Westport Country Playhouse, re-surfaced in my life when I saw him appear at one of Stu Hamstra’s special cabaret celebrations. I didn’t know him as a singer then, but it seems he has been singing throughout his entire life, and especially during his military career as part of the Third Army Special Services appearing live at 13 military bases. I know he is constantly performing at senior citizen residences and hospitals in the area. Now he has released a new CD, Lucky So and So (Snow/Bert Records), and will be participating in a special CD launch show Saturday, September 22 at the Metropolitan Room in New York City.
First of all, let me state Warren, of a certain age when some singers voices deteriorate, sings like a young singer, at times sounding like the great Mark Murphy when he was younger, about the time that Warren and I met. There is no lowering of keys, and there is a casual way with a lyric that communicates every word with an accomplished actor’s phrasing. He has had the skill of assembling a superb set of musicians for this album. There is his musical director/pianist/arranger Franklin Underwood whose piano (and vocal harmony on some tracks), demonstrate he is a brilliant musician and composer. Classically trained Jennifer Vincent, bassist and cellist, turns the bass clef of a piano score into her own cello compositions and enhances most of the tracks. Jeff Mironov who plays electric and acoustic guitar is also an award winning musician, and Phil Stewart, on drums, has performed with many jazz greats and toured with the Grant Steward Quartet.
Yes, this is a jazz program but the programming on the CD alternates wistful ballads with strong rhythm numbers. The first track is a song new to me, “Gently” by Lindy Robin and Billy Stritch, a pleasant sweet love song, and Warren sings it lucidly with the full quartet of musicians, and on this track, as several others, Underwood’s arrangements make it sound like a full orchestra is accompanying Warren’s suave singing.
Warren really rips into Mack David and Duke Ellington’s “I’m Such A Lucky So and So” and even plays harmonica on some parts. Then there is a very personal “I Love My Wife” from Jones & Schmidt’s I Do I Do and a wonderfully wistful “Sweet Kentucky Ham” (Frishberg) with only piano and cello accompaniment and Warren’s rendition is perfection.
Among the unfamiliar songs Warren sings are That Jones and Alec Wilder’s “A Child Is Born,” Loonis McGlohon and Marian McPartland’s Willow Creek,” “Under the Apple Tree” by Michael Franks (Warren does a brief bit of scatting on this track) and Bobby Troup’s “One October Morning.” Warren uses “Lazy Afternoon” to lead into “Willow Creek,” which he discovered on an old Julius LaRosa LP. Warren himself wrote an introductory verse for Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen’s “I Like To Lead When I Dance,” which sets up the romanticism of the lyrics and melody. There is also a different lyric by Gene Lees from the ones we all know to Jobim’s “Desafinado” and Warren, singing with the whole group, doesn’t miss one tongue-twisting word, hitting each consonant so fast, so clearly and musically that I don’t know when he ever took a breath!
Three of the best tracks are Joe Raposo’s “There Used To Be a Ballpark” which begins softly and then builds to a bigger and stronger climax; Frank Loesser’s “Inchworm,” with its rarely sung verse and all three choruses; and, especially, Richard Rodney Bennett and Underwood’s “Early To Bed.” It’s a special treat to hear these songs sung by Warren and played by Underwood, Vincent, and Stewart.
I would strongly urge every singer, musician, and fan of the Great American Songbook to buy this CD and see Warren’s show Sat. Sept. 22nd.
Clark Warren’s CD party for Lucky So and So takes place at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22 Street, New York, NY. Reservations are required call (212) 206-0440 or contact www.metropolitanroom.com . Clark Warren’s website is www.clarkwarren.com