October 26, 2007 with Tedd Firth, piano, and Steve Watson, bass.
Cabaret Exchange (New York)
October 31, 2007
Joe Regan Jr.
Canadian jazz singer Adi Braun, MAC nominee last year in the category of Major Jazz Artist, made a rare appearance in New York City this past Friday, October 27th, at the Metropolitan Room with a show entitled "Heart To Heart". Ably backed by superb musicians Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Watson on bass, Braun opened with a cool version of "That Old Black Magic" (Mercer-Arlen) which she sang slowly and emotionally, casting a hypnotic spell over the audience. Then, after Firth and Watson did a wonderful jazz break that made them sound like a full orchestra rather than only piano and bass, Braun, formerly a classical mezzo-soprano, opened up her voice and gave us a powerful finish to the second chorus.
Announcing that because it was almost Halloween she was going to do some "scary" "witchy" songs sometimes featuring the Devil or "Satan", Braun began with the little sung verse to "Witchcraft" (Leigh/Coleman), broke into the sexy parts of the familiar song, and then scatted to the high heavens up and down several octaves as Firth and Watson rode out the riffs with her scatting back and forth with their instruments.
Announcing she was a Petula Clark fan, she next sang "Old Devil Moon" (Harburg/Lane) from Finian's Rainbow, also beginning slowly but built up to a fast jungle rhythm finish with Watson pounding on his bass as if he were a full percussion section! This was immediately followed by the verse to the rarely heard Billie Holiday/Jeri Southern song "That Ole Devil Called Love" (Doris Fisher/Allan Roberts), which Braun sung slowly and beautifully, demonstrating also what a great actress she is.
She introduced the next song as a new song that she felt was one of the finest new songs she had heard recently. She dedicated the song to a young married couple in the audience. It was a tender, lovely ballad entitled "Easy to Breathe" by Felix van Dijk who was also in the audience. It had a wonderful refrain that stated "When I'm with you/it's so easy to breathe".
The next song was a song that Braun herself wrote. She told the story behind the song: one hot humid day she was stuck in a traffic jam and saw a woman on the street and the song came to her. It was "Grace", a tender ballad about a homeless woman who once knew better days but scavenges to survive.
Braun changed pace with Cole Porter's "You Do Something To Me" which she sang at a very fast pace, soaring on her scats into the stratosphere, again with great work from Firth and Watson complementing her every high note.
Firth briefly left the stage and with Watson becoming a classical virtuoso on the bass, Braun sang "Besame Mucho" in Spanish, standing still and slowly singing those Spanish lyrics, followed by wailing as the Portuguese fado singers and Spanish flamenco singers do. Braun's strong mezzo traveled up and down the octaves as Watson rhythmically worked his bass, his flying hands making backup sounds like the persistent drums that back the great fado singer Amalia Rodriguez' "Barco Negro". I have seen Braun many times in the past two years and she has a marvelous vocal instrument, but this particular rainy night she was singing better than ever and the emotional dimension of each song's lyrics was clear and communicative!
Braun then launched into her signature "Honeysuckle Rose", with the line that her mother hated, "honey, suck my toes" on the last chorus. She sang it rhythmically, with lots of fun and the boys rocked behind her! Quincy Jones' "C.D. Blues (Sister)" from the film Color Purple followed. This is a rocking blues that is a staple of Braun's and I never tire of hearing her sing it.
She went back to Cole Porter for "Night and Day" which she sang with a Latin beat, again giving the musicians full opportunity on the break to demonstrate their great jazz chops, scatting a little bit before another full voiced finished.
The encore was a quiet and simple "Some Other Time" (Betty Comden & Adolph Green/Leonard Bernstein) which summed up the evening lyrically and melodically. All in all, it was a well programmed act with Braun in better voice than ever!
Braun does not return to New York until next April 7th when she does a gala benefit for St. Francis Xavier Church on 16th Street with Ann Hampton Callaway and Laurel Masse.
© 2007 Cabaret Exchange