Around The Town

Sally Mayes

Now and Then/Jazz Standard Time

By: Alix Cohen

February 23, 2024: Sally Mayes erupts on stage in full clarion voice, all cylinders firing. “Cloudburst” (Hendricks/Kirkand/Harris) is gladiatorial in its rhythmic dexterity. The artist enunciates every tongue-twisting phrase while imbuing lyrics with vivid expression. A glass mountain for most vocalists, the song tells us with whom we’re dealing. She’s fearless.

Sally Mayes

Now and Then/Jazz Standard Time

By: Alix Cohen

February 23, 2024: Sally Mayes erupts on stage in full clarion voice, all cylinders firing. “Cloudburst” (Hendricks/Kirkand/Harris) is gladiatorial in its rhythmic dexterity. The artist enunciates every tongue-twisting phrase while imbuing lyrics with vivid expression. A glass mountain for most vocalists, the song tells us with whom we’re dealing. She’s fearless.

“I decided to do all my old shit,” Mayes tells us. The deep dive into her trunk unearthed a varied roster of selections from the ballads she loves to swing and blues. I’m inclined to think that voice can do anything. Prefaced by a nod to the birth of her now twenty-seven year old son, “The Way You Look Tonight” is wistful and warm. Piano is lush, bowed bass underscores. “New Song” (Mayes/Arnold) “the hardest song I’ve ever learned in my life,” is like a compilation of every vocal effect defining jazz. Lyrics are dense. Music meanders. Control is again consummate.

A Mike Renzi arrangement of “Don’t Blame Me” emerges torchy. Eyes close, head slightly nods. Mayes dresses the rendition in a shimmering gown. Thoughts flicker behind her eyes. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” the artist tells us, was inspired by Jimmy McHugh’s observing a young couple gazing into Tiffany’s windows. He said, “I can’t give you anything like that, but I love you.” The number is syncopated. Longline vocal phrases drape like fur scarves. Firth lets the keys know who’s boss. (Both Fields/ McHugh.)

“I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” (Francis/Ellington) – hear that tremolo!  has every romantic in the room leaning in. Mayes’ expression softly cries “help!” Introduced with a sweet story about Kenny Rankin, “In the Name of Love” swings – like a hammock. (Levitt/Rankin) The performer’s left hand plays air horn as she scats. “Angel Eyes,” an evening highlight, is bruised and raw. In this version, a wife discovers her husband is having an affair by observing the couple dancing together. Mayes is resigned, mournful, yet unsurprised. Tom Hubbard’s bass solo emphasizes pathos. 

“When I Take My Sugar to Tea” – “tee hee hee” arranged by Tedd Firth, sashays in saucy, instrumental mischievous. (Fain/Kahal/Norman) “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” (Gallop/Wood) is a horn-like vocal. Melody slip/slides. Scat is more southern. Mayes’ Texas accent returns. She’s loose n’ lovin’ it. “Close As Pages in a Book” (Fields/Romberg) is a polished ballad. The performer’s voice fans out and retreats conjuring ballet.

Sally Mayes is thoroughly engaging; patter personal and apt, anecdotes brief. Chemistry with these musicians is terrific. Whether robust or creamy, the artist appears unconditional. A helluva show.

This is the second of what promises to be four terrific concerts. Read my review of the first one. 

NEXT: The Stories May 16, The Broadway Extravaganza, June 20
Sally Mayes: Now and Then/Jazz Standard Time
Tedd Firth – MD/Piano
Tom Hubbard – Bass

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