Review: Brunch at Algonquin

Jazz Brunch At The Algonquin With Daryl Sherman

by Gregg Culling
Songbirds, Sun Jan 4, 2009

What could possibly be more cool, or more sophisticated, than Sunday Jazz Brunch at The Algonquin Hotel with the likes of singer/pianist/entertainer Daryl Sherman and her good friends Boots Maleson on bass and James Chirillo on guitar? I ask you. There’s nothing cooler, and besides the good music, the food and the service are delicious and wonderful, too. What’s not to like? And then, for Sherman to begin her set with “Sunday Afternoon” by Blossom Dearie and Len Saltzberg, well how appropriate is that!? “Goin’ far in our motorcar… to learn who we are!” It’s gotta bring a smile to your face, and anyone who can do that in these stressful times deserves a medal. “Do you want to go?”

Put Daryl Sherman on any stage and just let her go. She will not only entertain you, but also supply you with thoughtful messages, informative information about music, life and living, and make you feel good. From her recent recording New O’Leans she offered “S’Mardi Gras” (Spedale) as a time to get out of bed and party, and it really got the toes a tappin’ with some swell riffs by all the musicians. It was a wonderful way to wake us up on an early Sunday afternoon. Keeping with the same location, she paid a tribute to the minstrels who line the streets of New Orleans with “Mr. Bojangles” (Walker) that was played with a very light touch as her twinkling keys helped us to visualize the dancing Bojangles. Sublime.

Moving on to the theatre, she commented on the recent revival of Pal Joey, pointing out that the reviews have been, shall we say mixed, but hey she said, you gotta have a Joey that fits. Her suggestion for Joey: Arnold Schwarzenegger! Okay then. From that show she chose “Do It the Hard Way” (Rodgers/Hart) sung with a rhythmic bass and guitar, and she truly made it easy sailing, along with some fine fingering by Maleson and Chirillo. She also serenaded us with that show’s very wise “Bewitched,” after a nod to Stockard Channing’s rendition in the current production. Her summing up at the end was beautiful to behold.

Of course, no Sherman program is complete without some Cole Porter, even after 14 years of playing his own Steinway at the Waldorf-Astoria. She admits she misses the regularity of performing there, but most especially she misses the opportunity to meet all the travelers and drop-ins in the legendary lobby. But for now, she is situated in the Oak Room of The Algonquin for three Sundays, the home away from home for the likes of Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward, and of course, the royal Matilda the cat! Daryl admits she has been trying to acquaint herself with Matilda who has been “professionally friendly,” but is not really that easy to know. This was an interesting segue into her own special composition “Wendells’ Cat” about an abandoned cat who lived in the center of where Katrina hit, and how she survived.

To get us away from this all this for a moment, she treated us to Vernon Duke (and Ira Gershwin’s) “Island in the West Indies” with a cheerful calypso beat. There were appreciative smiles all around the room, which included singers: Wesla Whitfield, Julie Wilson, Nancy Stearns, Pamela Luss; songwriters and musicians: Ervin Drake (and his beautiful wife Edythe), Roger Schore, Mike Greensill; song and music lovers: Will Friedwald, Madeline Kerns and so many more. For Ervin Drake she sang his song of sadness and despair, “Good Morning Heartache” and made it her very own. And for George Shearing fans she played a delightful “Lullaby in Birdland.”

In closing, she remarked on this “hermetically sealed bubble of existence” we share here in the Oak Room to listen to “our” kind of music. Next up for Sherman will be her recording of some of the songs of Johnny Mercer to celebrate his centenary. A sample, perhaps, was the very jazzy snazzy “At the Jazz Band Ball” which also included the great Maleson on bowed bass and the amazing Chirillo picking at his guitar as if a banjo. Pure delight. She sent us out with more Mercer (and Mancini) drifting along on a dreamy “Moon River.”

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