Sandy Stewart and Bill Charlap: Make Me Rainbows
The mother-and-son duo make the most of some poignant ballads in their new show at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room.
From Stewart, there's a deep commitment to lyrics tied to a modest but effective vocal range, used most effectively on contemplative ballads; from Charlap, one of the world's great jazz pianists, there's impeccable musicianship used primarily in support of his mother and their song selections, until late in the show when he's briefly allowed to let loose as a solo artist. (His choices vary nightly; last evening, he played an infectious improvisation on Harry Warren's "The More I see You," followed by a pair of lesser-known Vernon Duke ditties, "A Penny for Your Thoughts" and "Not a Care in the World.")
What there isn't -- and perhaps not everyone finds this lacking -- is an abundance of warmth or personality on display, nor a single word of between-song patter. (At the show's end, an audience member spontaneously asked Stewart to recall her first engagement at the Oak Room -- a request that was quickly rebuffed.)
Her lack of verbosity doesn't matter when she attacks a song like "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," "Last Night When We Were Young," "All in Fun," or "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." Few singers share Stewart's gift for clear-eyed poignancy, and in these songs, pathos reigns supremely over bathos, making them deep personal statements. She also effectively emphasizes the meaning behind theater standards like "My Ship" and "I've Got the Sun in the Mornin'," almost forcing listeners to focus on the words for the first time.