Billy Stritch’s Birthday Bash was a complete success! His appearance at Birdland was a splendid way to celebrate a special event. Although it wasn’t my birthday, I felt honored as a member of his party. The menu items were delicious, the service great, the music was charming and pleasing, and left one feeling wonderful. It was great fun with audience smiles, applause, and appreciation.
Sound, lighting, ambiance, and music, were marvelous this evening at the wonderful Birdland’s Theater. Stritch was classically debonair, elegant, handsome, and looking sharp in his light blue suit, crisp white shirt, and jacket adorned with a pocket handkerchief. He mentioned something about “ age 59”, but I heard a fellow audience member call out “27”.
With a winning smile and presence, Stritch was accompanied by Tom Hubbard on Bass and Eric Halvorson on drums. As Stritch sang, he moved hearts as he led us through the decades of marvelous tunes from the American songbook. He spoke about the music’s provenance on film and stage, introducing us to the original recording artists and songwriters. His intimate anecdotes about his interactions with music and stage celebrities like Liza Minelli and Tony Bennett gave the songs special meaning. He described each song like it was his best friend.
Stritch accompanies himself as a singer and solos as a jazz pianist on the piano impeccably. Equally comfortable as a vocalist or jazz pianist, he shifts chromatically with ease through fresh, clever musical arrangements. Sometimes trading fours (jazz musicians will take turns improvising for one, two, or more measures), he frequently features his trio members while displaying his own acumen as a trio player. A gentleman artist, he took care to credit not only his partners on stage, but Birdland staff like sound engineer Rob Polanco.
This cleverly choreographed, delightful selection of songs included surprises, equally pleasing, and some heard less often. We were treated to Old Devil Moon (Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner), I Can Dream Can’t I, (Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal), Since You left New York (Billy Stritch and Sandy Knox), a medley of songs from the film Singing in the Rain, Mountain Greenery (Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart), and many more.
Check out Stritch’s latest recordings like his “Sunday Set.”
Billy Stritch is at Birdland through February 12, so move quickly to get seats at your cabaret table. The shows are at 7 pm and 9:30 pm. Birdland is conveniently located at 315 West 44th Street. For tickets, click here or go to Birdlandjazz.com