Daryl Sherman performs her show Tale of Three Cities at the Crazy Coqs, London until 12 July.
“It’s a hermetically-sealed bubble of civilisation,” says American jazz singer-pianist Daryl Sherman of the increasingly popular London cabaret room Crazy Coqs, but it’s also worth pointing out that this kind of atmosphere can only be created when artists as gifted as her are playing there.
Sherman has long been synonymous with New York cabaret, but she hasn’t been a stranger on these shores either, having played at the much-missed Pizza On the Park, Ronnie Scott’s and a number of jazz festivals across the UK. Music-lovers who have seen her in action at these venues are likely to be heading to the Crazy Coqs this week (it is her debut there), but let’s hope new audiences get a chance to enjoy her exquisite mix of jazz and cabaret too.
The singer and musician’s performances are particularly special because they work on a number of levels. There is the quality of her distinct, velvety vocal sound and accomplished musicianship, coupled with her knowledge of, and appreciation for, the compositions she carefully chooses to play. Thoughtful reinterpretations of popular standards are placed alongside musical treasures she has discovered, fallen in love with, and wants to share. And Sherman always makes a point of crediting each and every composer and lyricist while throwing in a sprinkling of anecdotes along the way.
On this occasion, her show is entitled Tale of Three Cities, and the numbers picked allow her to reminisce about her adventures in New York, London and Japan. Her stories of a recent residency in Tokyo are particularly entertaining, as is her “tour de farce” – a rendition of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s ‘That Old Black Magic’ in Japanese.
Elsewhere, the mention of these cities is a route to a collection of songs that speak of love found, fleeting and lost. Memorable examples of these are the heartbreaking emotions underlying ‘This Will Make You Laugh’ (Irene Higginbotham), ‘Where Are You’ (Jimmy McHugh, Harold Adamson), and a real highlight of the whole evening, the poignant ‘Room Five Hundred And Four’ (George Posford, Eric Maschwitz – originally written for the Hulbert Follies variety show in the early 1940s).
But the programme is by no means overwhelmed by intense emotion, there is plenty of lighthearted content too – not least Sherman’s own tale of a brief encounter in ‘Something Brazilian’ – as well as the joy and romance of ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ (Maschwitz again, this time with Manning Sherwin).
Sherman also tells us the story of what it was like to get to know the late great Blossom Dearie (who she is often likened to) towards the end of her life. Bed-ridden, Dearie used to listen to her own recordings on a pair of headphones, so one day Sherman replaced the CD with one of own to see if the great singer and pianist would notice the difference. “She must have known it was me,” says the self-deprecating Sherman, “because she fell asleep!”
No chance of that happening though in this sophisticated set to which the ever likeable Sherman brings her warm personality and depth of feeling (ably accompanied on a stream of lovely arrangements by Andrew Cleyndert on double bass).
It is more than ten years since I first saw Sherman perform at a cabaret room called the Firebird in New York. Still singing those songs that talk about the way we feel, her company is always a pleasure. On this occasion she is a gem in what she calls “a jewel of a cabaret space”.
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