High Priestess of Cabaret Baby Jane Dexter Gets Personal at the Metropolitan Room for the Holidays.
By: Patrick Christiano
The indomitable Baby Jane Dexter is teaming up again for the umpteenth time with her long-time musical director Ross Patterson, on piano, with a brand new show, "IT’S PERSONAL!" giving her adoring fans something to cheer about this season. The 2015 MAC Lifetime Achievement Award winner, who is also a multiple Mac and Bistro award winner, has dedicated the new show to her personal friend Julie Wilson, who passed away in October. With passion and soul she weaves a compelling spell of artistry on an eclectic mix of songs from legends like Cy Coleman, Peggy Lee and Rogers and Hart, to other deities like John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney, along with greats like Felix Cavalierre, and Billy Roy.
The evening is a rousing triumph of Dexter’s interpretive mastery, which embraces her listeners with an empathy that few singers in the world can match. Her raw contralto may be somewhat darker, yet her incredible timber still projects a tender compassion, a unique juxtaposition, that is pure improvisational magic spun for the gut of an authentic soul. With her idiosyncratic style she raises the bar with a powerhouse belief in the truth of each moment that makes her adoring fans, laugh, and cry and see life through a brand new lens. The lady is alive and still kicking, a bold inspiration, not for the masses, but for those who value life, music, pure honesty, elocution, and art.
Dexter eased into the evening with a strong and clear "I’m In Love Again," which she sang directly to her audience of admirers, declaring how happy she was to be here doing just what she loves to do most, before delivering a poignant rendition of Abbey Lincoln’s "Painted Lady that came off as a reflection of herself and her life. On her next song, Billy Roy’s "Bargain Day," the lyrics "You want to buy a heart? Mine is torn apart; I’ll sell it cheap," was another mirror into her soul. Then she tossed in a few of her trademark thunderbolts on the next song, an explosive rendition of "Do Right Woman," wrapping the audience around her finger in the process.
Next up on Schechtman’s "Razor" she told us, "Have me like I am or good-by." Reminding us that "I think I know where the blues comes from," she then launched into a jazzy "Birth of the Blues," and hammered home the message again by nailing a painfully layered "House of the Rising Sun," a mournful and remorseful take on "a walk on the wild side."
Each selection in her mind blowing set shed light on another facet of the peerless depth of her understanding, gleamed from a life fully embraced. There was "Got to Get You into My Life" (Lennon & McCartney), "Orpheus" (Lance Horne’s song from the film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) – "Give me a word and I’ll hear it. Give me look and I’ll see it. Give a kiss and I’ll taste it. Give me a the truth and I’ll take it" – "Experiment" (Cole Porter), "Everyone is Gay" (Ian Axel & Chad Vaccarino), "Blue Moon" (Rogers & Hart), "How Can I Be Sure" (Cavalierre & Brigati), and "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" (J.F. Hanley) before she gave us the cabaret convention, the encore.
Sitting on stage, instead of standing and leaving, because of health limitations, she took in the adulation of her fans clamoring for more before closing out the evening, first with "For All We Know," dedicated to her dear friend Julie Wilson, who she reminded us is missing from one of her shows for the first time in nearly three decades, a not so subtle reminder that "Tomorrow May Never Come for all we know." And then she sang what has become one of her inspirational signature songs, the R.E.M. classic "Everybody Hurts," urging us to "Hang on! Everybody cries! Everybody hurts, sometimes. Hold on!!! Then finally rising from her chair and standing for the final verse, she exited still singing the lyrics with the room on their feet sending out waves of love for Baby Jane Dexter, who had just generously embodied every moment of each song with an improvisational intensity that was never less than authentic. Ross Patterson on piano, who has lovingly supported Baby Jane for going on three decades now, accompanied her mix of artistry, with a rare musical dignity that is unrivaled.
Baby Jane performs "IT’S PERSONAL!" only twice more at the Metropolitan room on Saturday November 28 and Friday December 4, both at 7pm. For reservations call 212-206- 0440 or go onlne to www.metropolitanroom.com There is a $25 music charge and a two-drink minimum.
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