Altercation took the summer off, but here’s some stuff:
My most recent column is called “What Candidates Talk About When They Talk About Equality.” Before that, I wrote “What Roger Ailes Really Thinks of Donald Trump” and “This Is the Real Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party.”
I saw Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Café Carlyle recently, opening the season and making his debut there. The show, which runs through September 26, is called Plays With Music, and is a mixture of Broadway tunes, standards and some unexpected, rearranged gems. I wasn’t familiar with Stokes’ voice and it’s so big the small room could hardly contain it. But his voice, while powerful, shows a lot a sensitivity based on the the material. The band, Teddy Firth on piano, Gary Hasse on bass and Mark McLean on drums were given room to move as Stokes ranged from a quiet “There’s No Business Like Show Business” to an unusually moving “The Water is Wide.” “Hello Young Lovers” was slow and sweet (and brave, given Sinatra’s owning of that song, while “The Windmills of Our Mind” sounded profound, however briefly. Stokes is nothing if not a convincing, compelling entertainer and the crowd rose to its feet to give him a standing ovation for a peformance that was more than satisfying to everyone in that small but utterly charming room. (I don’t quite get why Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” is his favorite song. I think it’s a total turkey, not even in Louis’ top 100. I saw the setlist and I thought it was going to be Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World.” Just a suggestion…)
Saturday night I was lucky enough to see David Bromberg celebrate his “Bucket List Birthday Bash” at The Town Hall with his Big Band and special guests Jerry Jeff Walker, Tom Rush, Jonathan Edwards, Jeff Daniels, and John Fullbright.
John Fullbright is a guy from Oklahoma who’s a pretty good singer/songwriter and plays a nice piano. Jeff Daniels is the actor and a pretty clever folkie songwriter and not at all a bad acoustic guitarist. Kind of annoying I’d say, in a Tim Robbins/Kevin Bacon-sort of way. Jonathan Edwards had a hit about forty years ago and sings barefoot. His new songs are the kind of songs a barefoot guy would sing. Tom Rush is still wonderful—he did an awesome “Whom Do You Love”—I was so pleased with the grammatical correction. Each of those guys got 15 minutes before Bromberg came out and played for a half hour with Jerry Jeff, closing with a too-short “Bojangles.” A nice, short break later, the Big Band came out and and while the set was less expansive than previous Bromberg shows at Town Hall given the time, it was no less instructive in how to play blues/jazz/bluegrass/folk and rock n’ roll all at the same time with both virtuosity, soul and cleverness. David Bromberg ain’t much to look at and his voice is a long way from pretty. But many, what a band. Smart, moving, powerful and honest music. He took a few years off but came back seven or eight years better than ever. Here’s hoping for plenty more.