- CHARITY BENEFIT
Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.- August 9, 2012
Award winning singer Mary Foster Conklin and pianist/accordion player John DiPinto have been appearing onstage together in various guises for the last twenty years. They began to experiment with vocal duets several years ago at the Café Vivaldi and more recently on various fire escapes as the Lady in the Red Dress and The Man in the Hat with the Renegade Cabaret off the Highline in New York. In “Down for Double,” their new show which had its first performance Thursday, August 9 at the Metropolitan Room, they were accompanied by Tony Romano on guitar (who has also appeared at the Vivaldi with them,) Skip Ward on bass, and Willie Martinez on percussion and drums. It’s the first time Conklin has appeared with drums and percussion and the enhancement on this engagement with sensational work by Martinez and its jazz song list firmly establishes the two of them in a category with the great Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
The opening number sets the pace: a very jazzy “If I Fall,” with DiPinto on his accordion and the entire ensemble swinging wildly on that familiar ballad. Not sitting on their laurels, the next song is a great Fran Landesman/Bob Dorough rarity “Without Rhyme or Reason” and that is followed by one of LH&R’s hits, “Two For the Blues,” for which Jon Hendricks put vocalese words to Neal Hefti’s instrumental. Conklin jokes that they are not three, they are a double, but you don’t miss the third voice because their musicians are so adept at swinging out the third voice in that trio, especially Romano on guitar and Ward on bass.
Also in this extraordinary program are several “mash-ups” a word Conklin tells us Roy Sander described as the mixing of different songs. One of them is “You’ll Never Get to Heaven” and “Trains & Boats & Planes” (Bacharach/Hal David) as a tribute to Dionne Warwick, their primary recording artist. DiPinto gets a great solo spot with JC Johnson and Andy Razaf’s “Louisiana” and “Share A Load” (Richard Greene/Bob Madson) in an a capella duet. The second Jon Hendricks number is the show’s title, “Down For Double” to music by Freddie Green and all five swing wildly again. A song that DiPinto wrote with Elissa Harvey is a torch song about love going wrong and DiPinto entertains us playing piano as he sings this revenge song.
Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold on Me” brought the room full of singers and songwriters to their feet for a standing ovation as each individual in the five did their riff choruses individually as they were acknowledged again by Conklin and DiPinto.
It wasn’t over. Another “match-up” was the encore, a sensational pairing of Sid Ramin’s instrumental with Tony Velona’s vocalese lyrics “Music to Watch the Girls Go By” with “Theme from A Man and A Woman” (Frances Lai/Pierre Barouh) sung in French and in English. (Barouh was the actor who played Anouk Aimee’s husband in the flashback where the French lyrics were first heard). The French lyrics were sung impeccably by Conklin and DiPinto and if there wasn’t any other reason not to miss this show this stunning finale is. Don’t miss it!
John DiPinto and Mary Foster Conklin repeat “Down For Double” this coming Thursday at 7 pm at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22 Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues) for reservations call (212) 206-0440.