Clint Holmes
Clint Holmes
Clint Holmes would seem an unlikely choice to pay tribute to Bobby Short, the New York musical institution who ruled the Café Carlyle for over three-and-a-half decades. Nonetheless, the singer's new show at the Carlyle, Remembering Bobby Short, is an unalloyed triumph.

Whereas Short was a suave, seemingly effortless performer who never seemed to break a sweat onstage, Holmes -- who has spent much of his career performing in large Las Vegas showrooms -- is a human dynamo who can turn a simple ballad into a physically and emotionally strenuous workout.

Performing a generous selection of numbers from Short's seemingly bottomless repertoire of jazz and pop standards, Holmes wisely makes no attempt to emulate his vocal style or arrangements, instead making the material his own even while paying lavish homage to the legendary entertainer along the way.

Wisely, Holmes uses a general biographical format to frame his song selections while carefully avoiding a dry recitation of facts. A description of Short's beginnings as a saloon singer at the tender age of 10, for instance, leads to full throttle renditions of such vintage jazz tunes as "Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer) and "Guess Who's in Town."

Recalling Short's love of France, where he kept a home, Holmes delivers a tender version of "Autumn Leaves" sung in French. And a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Charlie," the perfume jingle that brought Short's voice to millions, is followed by an original rewritten tribute dubbed -- what else -- "Bobby."

Holmes' voice is strong and versatile, but it's his wide-ranging and superb interpretive skills that truly stand out. His "Tea for Two" removes all the quaintness from that vintage number, infusing it with a striking dramatic urgency. "I've Got You Under My Skin," performed in a slow, meditative style, becomes a darkly tinged cry of romantic obsession. And Ivor Novello's comic song "And Her Mother Came, Too" is delivered with a hilarious archness.

For the latter part of the show, Holmes augmented his backing trio, which included Jay Leonhart on bass, with a horn section consisting of three players, John Eckert, Mike Christianson and Patience Higgins, all of whom had shared the stage with Short. Their swinging contributions to such songs as "Satin Doll" and "Just One of Those Things" was the icing on the cake of an evening that was infused with the sort of energy this room doesn't see very often.