Paula West
(© Pat Johnson)
Paula West
(© Pat Johnson)
If there's a perennial joy in watching the brilliant jazz singer Paula West, who is making her debut at Feinstein's at Loews Regency (after many years at the Algonquin Oak Room), it's her wholehearted embrace of the entire American songbook. No performer can ease from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and Irving Berlin to Bob Dylan and Jimmy Webb as effortlessly as West -- and make all these writers seem equally profound and relevant, despite their disparate styles and point of views.

West's expansive take of Rodgers and Hart's' "Mountain Greenery" -- perhaps the cheeriest lyric the often morose songwriter ever penned -- is nothing short of sublime and there's an equally welcome feeling of joy in the pair's "Have You Met Sir Jones." They are love songs of the highest order, and after West completes them, you'll want to snuggle up to your nearest companion.

As might be expected, West delivers extensive feeling in her take on Berlin's classic "Suppertime" -- without showing an ounce of unnecessary bathos. Conversely, there's a delicious sense of delight in her rendition of Berlin's considerably lighter "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing."

Having tackled some of Dylan's most iconic tunes in the past, she opts for the 1975 song "Shelter From the Storm," a song whose lyrics have been interpreted in a myriad of ways, and which she delivers with her trademark conviction. Perhaps her most surprising choice of the evening is a rather straightforward version of Webb's pop-classic "Wichita Lineman" that reveals the lyric's true depth of feeling.

The remainder of the act runs the gamut from the Lena Horne standard "Come Runnin," and "Everything But You," to a topically updated take on "I Can't Get Started With You" and a defiantly exuberant "I Love to Singa," each of which is delivered with West's trademark vocal purity. Only her version of Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Francis Webster's "Baltimore Oriole" struck me as a bit too fussy for its own good.

The other guarantee for music lovers is that West is superbly augmented by her first-class quartet of musicians -- pianist George Mesterhazy, guitarist Ed Cherry, bassist Barak Mori, and drummer Jerome Jennings -- whom many would claim are worth the price of admission alone.