- CHARITY BENEFIT
Reviewed By Joel Benjamin
Some performers pay lip service homage to other artists by merely strolling coolly through their repertoire unaffected. For Frank Dain his The Magic of Mathis has clearly entered his psyche leading him to find different timbres in his voice. He held some notes longer, added some honey to his light baritone—in other words, he allowed these songs to affect his interpretation.
The program featured just about every Mathis classic, opening with a little overture played by Dain’s Musical Director Kathleen Landis and bassist Saadi Zain which included tantalizing hints of “Maria” and “Tonight” from West Side Story.
“Misty” (Erroll Garner/Johnny Burke) and “Stranger in Paradise” (Borodin/Wright & Forrest) were a seemingly odd combination of opening songs, yet Dain’s conversational approach found similarities in the songs. “Chances Are” (Robert Allen/Al Stillman) was a finger-snappingly jazzy version, peppered with subtle bass playing, not the usual expansive ballad. Dain’s “99 Miles from L.A.” (Albert Hammond/Hal David) was tense, with his band joining in for harmonic emphasis.
Throughout the show, Dain told lovely vignettes about Mathis, including his home life which inspired Dain to sing “Yellow Roses on Her Gown” (Michael Moore) a sentimental look at a happy family whose happiness goes into an inevitable decline. Dain was quite touching. In the same vein was “Photograph” (Dori Caymmi/Tracy Mann), a tender song about a long-ago love.
Dain didn’t take all the songs so seriously. On “Wild Is the Wind” (Dimitri Tiomkin/Ned Washington), his bassist provided some modest—but funny—wind sounds, which, along with an echo chamber effect, knocked that song down a peg or two.
The combination of Dain’s intense honesty and love of the material made The Magic of Mathis a joy. His director, Lennie Watts, knew how to balance narration with song and how to keep dramatic and musical interest from flogging. And, Ms. Landis’ expert and witty arrangements gave each song a distinctive feel.
This was a chance to re-examine Johnny Mathis’ fifty-six year career and hear Frank Dain at his best.
September 8th, 15th, 21st & 28th at 7:00 pm