Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
November 7, 2012
Sue Raney? For all those who don’t know her, I’ll get right to the point. Don’t let rain, sleet, snow and hail keep you from Feinstein’s at the Regency this week to see Sue Raney in her first New York nightclub engagement in 25 years! To sweeten the inducement, she has brought with her the great pianist Alan Broadbent with whom she recorded a new duo CD, Listen Here, like the ones he recorded with Irene Kral.
I have to confess I have all Raney’s long playing albums and all of Irene Kral’s albums. During the time I was working on the West Coast I would make a point to see them at all the California jazz clubs. Many times I would return more than once, introducing these great talents to my friends in Hollywood.
Before Raney made her entrance, Broadbent led the members of what was billed as The Alan Broadbent Trio in a rippling instrumental version of “How Deep Is The Ocean.” The others are superior musicians, bereted Harvey S on bass and energetic Bill Goodwin on drums.
When Raney appeared, she was in a slinky white mesh outfit and had her now platinum hair in a Doris Day pageboy. Her baby face showed no sign of age. The big surprise was on her opening number, an energetic “That Face” (Lew Spence/Alan Bergman). Raney demonstrated that, unlike other singers of that certain age, she has not changed her keys and she slides effortlessly up to those incredible jazz high notes without any break in her voice. She warmly greeted members of the audience (full of musicians, singers and critics) as she bounced around from one end of the stage to another. And throughout the performance, when she scatted, she used the microphone to mime playing a reed instrument. Believe me, she went into stratospheres I haven’t heard since Gloria Wood and Jo Stafford.
With boundless vigor, she shifted from swinging riffs, sometimes interpolating New York City references, and many times inserting Rex Reed’s name to show her gratitude for him bringing her to New York last summer and the reason for this engagement.
She told about how, when she was a youngster, she wanted to be Betty Grable in Hollywood, and then when she first saw Doris Day on the screen she decided she wanted to be Doris Day. She mentioned seeing Day in The Winning Team in which Day played the wife of baseball player which was an “in” joke because the man she married and settled with in Los Angeles was a professional baseball player. In 2007 she recorded her first album in years at the Capitol Tower Hearts Desire: A Tribute to Doris Day in the same studio where she recorded her first album when she was seventeen. There were several Doris Day songs in the show, but the most unusual were Day’s biggest hit, “Que Sera Sera,” which she sang very slowly, giving a terrific acting performance to the familiar lyrics, beautifully supported by Broadbent, and “Everybody Loves A Lover” on which she pranced all over the stage again, rocking with the trio and singing both parts of that big Day hit.
The bass player and the drummer left the stage and Raney and Broadbent proceeded to selections from Listen Here, the duo album they recorded last year. Raney explained that at the Jazz Gallery in Los Angeles one night, a man yelled out to her “Sing ‘Melancholy Baby.’” Including the rarely sung verse, Raney sat on a stool slowly sang it and created a great intimacy with her audience. She told how much she loved the singing of the late Chet Baker and did a heart-breaking “He Was Too Good To Me,” holding certain high note vowels an unwavering long time without any show of loss of breath (example “fun“ and “blue” in the familiar lyric). I’ve heard this song sung so many times by many male and female singers but nothing equals Raney’s performance.
Raney and Broadbent also paid tribute to the recently deceased Billy Barnes, composer of “Something Cool” and other jazz standards, by singing his standard from his Broadway show, “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair.” Yes, she sang the rarely sung verse, and she again sang it slower than anyone else, but it had an emotional wallop rarely felt in other singers’ performances.
Oh, yes, there were two superb unfamiliar ballads. One was “Heart’s Desire,” the song that Alan Broadbent wrote with Dave Frishberg for the Day album, and the other was “Listen Here” by Frishberg. Both dealt with how to deal with disappointment in love and how to survive it, specifically “Listen Here” which advises one to listen to the voice in their head and heart and follow that advice and you won’t regret it.
Raney’s last song, with the full trio, was appropriately a swinging “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and she let everyman in Broadbent’s trio do an outstanding riff. However, no one topped her magnificent high notes. She was obviously having fun, and so was the audience. Again, don’t miss her!
Sue Raney’s website is www.SueRaneySRO.com . Both her recent C Ds are available at the club or through her website.
Sue Raney and the Alan Broadbent Trio repeat at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street, every night through Saturday, November 10. All shows are at 8 PM with an additional 10:30 PM show on Saturday evening. . For ticket reservations please call (212) 339-4095 or visit them on line at www.Feinsteinsatloewsregency.com
*Photos: Stephen Sorokoff
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