Review: Bake’s Place

It’s All About “the Conversation of the Song”
by Paul de Barros
Seattle Times, May 6, 2005

Listening to “Ten Minutes Ago,” the skipping waltz on Daryl Sherman’s marvelous tribute to songwriter Richard Rodgers, “A Hundred Million Miracles” (Arbors), a song from a different era suddenly popped into my head — Lennon and McCartney’s “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

Very different styles, yes, but both deal with the same breathless moment of love at first sight.

Sherman, who makes her long overdue Seattle debut at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the intimate Issaquah supper club Bake’s Place ($27; 425-391-3335 or ), loves those kinds of connections.

“Sometimes I put ‘You and the Night and the Music,’ by [Arthur] Schwartz and [Howard] Dietz, with Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,'” says Sherman, speaking by telephone from her Manhattan apartment, near the U.N. building.

Straddling the urbane worlds of cabaret and jazz — in a city that reveres both — Sherman has earned an international reputation for her sterling interpretations of the Great American Songbook. Her tea- time gig at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, on Park Avenue, where she plays a grand piano that once stood in Cole Porter’s room upstairs, has become a Manhattan institution.

She is also a regular at London’s Pizza Express and was drafted by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to sing Mildred Bailey tunes for a Paul Whiteman tribute.

With that pedigree, you might expect cafe-society hauteur, but Sherman is refreshingly straightforward and tender. With a light, buoyant voice, an irresistibly cheerful delivery and a cheeky sense of humor, she seems to delight in the world being just a little bit topsy-turvy.

Sherman is in our neck of the woods to sing at a Spokane festival celebrating Bailey, who was raised in Spokane (and whose brother, Al Rinker, was Bing Crosby’s original singing partner).

Sherman, 54, has been making a living in music since 1974, when she moved to New York. She has waxed a string of terrific albums for the Arbors label. One is a tribute to Bailey, “Look What I Found”; another, “Jubilee,” is a collaboration with her piano-playing idol, Dave McKenna. Last year’s “Sammy Sherman: Live at Chan’s,” features her father, a swing trombone player who initiated her to jazz when she was a kid.

But Sherman is not about scat singing and acrobatic improvising. She’s about songs, and their dramatic situations.

“[Cabaret singer] Sylvia Syms is the one who really opened my eyes and ears to the conversation of the song,” she says. “Jazz people twist and turn things for harmonies and effects. It’s trickier to find something that sounds simple, but natural — like Sinatra.”

Though known for her vintage retrievals, Sherman is in no way self- consciously “retro.” She knows her way around the keyboard, too, from Thelonious Monk to Bill Evans. At Bake’s, she’ll accompany herself on piano, with Jeff Johnson on bass.

“I’ll be doing my least-requested song,” she promises, “‘Swingtime in Honolulu,’ by Duke Ellington. It replaced ‘I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’ on one of his Cotton Club revues. When audiences hear it, they will understand why it replaced that song — and why it has remained in obscurity.”

Go hear Sherman. You won’t be disappointed.

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