by Tulis McCall
David Sabella is the bomb (are we still using that phrase or am I out of touch?) Not only is he THE bomb, Sabella is A balm. He is a reassuring, smooth presence in the middle of the chaos through which we are swimming.
I saw his show on March 9th and was set to write this review on March 11th when I got word that my vocal coach, Barbara Maier Gustern, had been attacked and was in the hospital. That knocked me off my pins, and I wrote to David to say the review would be delayed. His response was beyond gracious -“Take as long as you need. I am just happy that you were there.” Relieved of that responsibility I have spent the better part of the past three weeks crying. Today was the first day I woke and saw a little break in the cloud that is Barbara’s death.
Now let me tell you about Mr. Sabella. I am a new member of his fan club. The night I saw him at Feinstein’s/54 Below the place was packed with others who know him well. Sabella invited us into the present moment by acknowledging that he was not used to being WITH people, but he was dealing with it. The past two years have been crazy for all of us, and lucrative for therapists which puts a whole new spin on “A Moment With Me” (Harry Conick, Jr.).
Many of his songs have a brief intro that shifts our listening. He not only entertains – he makes us think. An extraoridinary combination.
Sabella tells us that he spent the past two years working (from his couch) with several music directors: Gregory Toroian, Christopher Denny and Rick Jensen and we are treated to a cornucopia of his Covid Creations beginning with. “Losing My Mind/It Never Entered My Mind” (Sondheim/Rodgers and Hart) – arr Torian. Sabella ruminates on all the romances that were cut short because of the pandemic. “Lover/Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year” (Rodgers and Hart/Frank Loesser) is a heart crushing tender piece (arr Christopher Denny) that brings out the delicate lace of Sabella’s voice.
He talks about drama, gay marriage, gay divorce, death and daughters. He escorts us though his life with style and grace. At each stop he opens the doors to an intimate moment and drops a musical pin that makes you sit up and take notice. “Wonderin'” (Jason Robert Brown) is a thundering bridge that ended his 2019 and began his 2020.
“Accentuate The Positive” (Arlen/Mercer) is a foot stomping reminder of our ability to overcome anything. The death of George Floyd is given center stage as he tells us of his two black daughters – what to tell them, and what are the right questions for all of us? “How Did We Come To This” (Andrew Lippa) left us all feeling the deep wounds of this time. Sabella segues into “Children will Listen/Sorry Grateful” (Stephen Sondheim) and mentions that his two daughters are teenagers – I will never hear those songs – particularly the latter – again without thinking of him and them.
See what I mean? Sabella is a magician.
Sabella offers “The Show Must Go On” (Mercury/May/Dean/Taylor) – a collaboration with Rick Jensen, who passed away a year ago, and sings with a recording of Jensen on the piano. )-a
He thanks the staff at 54 Below and then plugs every performer he can (Karen Mason, Steve Ross, Ann Talman, Shana Farr and made time to sing “Happy Birthday” (Patty and Mildred J. Hill) to Sidney Myer. The penultimate pairing of “Time Heals Everything/Time After Time” (Herman/ Styne and Cahn) lifts us up into the collective where we are all wearing grown up clothes and greeting each other with real live hugs.
And of course he closes with “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and we are all thinking, “Back at ya!”
Get on this man’s email list and into his audience. You will be the better for it.