By Ed Kliszus
The vivacious, marvelous, ebullient, incomparable cabaret artist Natalie Douglas has a wonderful history at the Birdland Jazz Club. The club honors her by proudly displaying her portrait on their wall of fame. Tonight, Douglas was accompanied by pianist and music director Mark Hartman, with whom she has enjoyed a long artistic relationship.
She took care to announce Hartman’s status as a Drama Desk nominee. Not surprising, as Hartman is the accompanist par excellence. He commands finely crafted subtle and dramatic pianistic support so a singer can fully express a song’s meaning with complete freedom. Utilizing the full range of the piano, one might describe him as a pianist who creates the full range and colors of an orchestra with his keys.
The audience was packed with Douglas’ loyal followers. As she introduced songs and told anecdotes of her mingling with the likes of Dolly Parton, Lena Horne, or Roberta Flack, people nodded and smiled in affirmation. She projects a sentimental, nostalgic, and caring persona and each song she sings creates a warm, safe, embracing space. Balancing her view of life through song is her sense of humor, a sweet smile, and joie de vivre.
Douglas reminisced on past greats like Nina Simone, Lena Horne, and Rosemary Clooney. She honors them through song, story, and remembrances.
Time and space are forgotten as people sigh, smile, and react to the sadness, love, longing, hope, joy, or regrets expressed in the selections chosen for tonight’s performance of a show entitled “I Just Might.” She possesses the soul of an angel and soothes the broken or bitter heart as she comforts and instills hope.
Her song list is a misty, nostalgic walk through the past. It included I Must Have That Man by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me by Irving Berlin (she dedicated this to Rosemary Clooney, whose birthday is today), This Girl’s in Love With You by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, That’s the Way I Always Heard it Should Be by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, Unforgettable by Irving Gordon (dedicated to Nat King Cole), And I Love You So by Don McLean, I Just Might by Dolly Parton, Heart of the Matter by Don Henley, Why? (The King of Love is Dead) by Gene Taylor (dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as sung by Nina Simone two days after King’s death), and Standing Knee Deep in a River by Bob McDill, Dickey Lee and Bucky Jones.
Douglas expressed sincere, extended appreciation for her audience, the staff of Birdland, and for her husband Billy Joe Young, who was present this evening.
After a well-deserved standing ovation, Douglas sang two encores: This Little Light of Mine (a special arrangement of this gospel tune using the melody from Hava Nagila), and the beautiful gospel song His Eye Is on the Sparrow. Another standing ovation!
Runtime 90 minutes
Birdland Jazz Club
315 W 44th St #5402, New York, NY 10036
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