Vintage at the Café Carlyle By: Sandi Durell
The name may or may not be vaguely familiar, but say Gregory Charles in Canada, Paris or around the world, and eyes pop open! He’s Canada’s celebrated concert star, recording artist and TV personality. A classically trained pianist, Charles is a mesmerizing musician who not only can play any genre of music, but has decided to do it unrehearsed in an interactive format, based upon songs the audience has chosen. This is a unique brand of entertainment that is possible, not only by virtue of his extraordinary musicianship (and he sings great too!), but because he employs three fly by the seat of your pants band members who are just as unique as he is.
With Samuel Joly on drums, Sylvain Bertrand on bass and the amazing talents of Jean-Benoit Lasante on double guitars, the evening leaves one amused and amazed that Charles can go from a standard “The Nearness of You” to “You Are My Destiny” and then surprise when challenged with a Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine” or Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
After opening with some Ellington tunes -“You Can Take the A Train,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing);” and a potpourri of grand standards like 1931’s most popular song in America “Minnie the Moocher” (where the audience gets to hidey hi dee hi), the fun begins with whatever he picks out of a box of forms the audience has filled in with song titles and their names prior to the show. This man is unstoppable and the only tune that gave him a bit of trouble was “Unforgettable” which he said is difficult to play what with the various chord/key changes.
Gregory Charles is a genius and his capabilities endless once he’s at the piano singing, playing and leading these three remarkable band members. His vocals are more than easy on the ears and just for the record, he loves the key of Ab, especially in that slow, sexy, lingering guitar solo that resounded on “At Last.”