Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nellie McKay at Nighttown on March 6

I saw someone at Nighttown last Thursday who some people think could be the next big thing. I’m not sure if she is main stream enough to be it, let along the luck and breaks and all those other things she’ll need, but jazz singer/piano player Nellie McKay gave a standing room only crowd a very enjoyable evening of music that I could best describe as Dianna Krall meeting Joan Rivers.
She’s good singer whose range got better as the night ran on. She sings mostly origins, but did a real good job with the standards she threw in. She is very witty between songs in her slight monologues on everything and anything, with a stutter and ramble very similar to Ms. Rivers. And she is unique…I’ve never before seen an artist borrow one of her own CD’s from an audience member because she didn’t remember the lyrics to one of the songs. Whether planned or not, it was down right funny.
As the night went on I heard a variety of influences in her music, from Lulu (she was born in England) to Marianne Faithful to a whole lot of early Rickie Lee Jones. As the night went on she reminded me more and more of Rickie Lee and the first few times I saw her way back in the 70’s and how the audience just loved her, much like the Night Town crowd adored young Ms. McKay.
When she played a serious ballad everyone listened, and when she got humorous the audience loved that too. Amongst her originals “Feminists Have Lost their Sense of Humor,” “Identity Theft” (from here most recent release Obligatory Visitors), and “Long Lazy River to your Soul” stood out. The covers that shined included Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In” which she did while playing the ukulele; Ella Fitzgerald’s “A Tisket a Tasket”; and a great version of “You Don’t know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.”
At Nighttown she was accompanied by two local musicians of note, Roy King on drums and Marty Block on bass. If the buzz about her continues, I assume the next time through town she’ll come with her own band. I guess we will have to wait and see.
Nighttown has some great shows coming up, check out their website www.clevelandnighttown.com for more information. Two of my favorite Nighttown regulars are appearing in the near future, St. Louis jazz singer Erin Bode on April 2 and Brian Auger on March 26 and 27. Erin Bode is another young female jazz singer, but what sets her apart is her own terrific song writing. Brian Auger of Oblivious Express fame is one of the true legends of the progressive rock/jazz era of the 70’s, who still is at the top of his game. I highly recommend either show.

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