By Holli Harms
Wendy Moten is a party all by herself!
A singer and comedienne, she conjures with everyone in the room; the band, the audience, one big jam session.
Moten was a long-time backup singer for Julio Iglesias, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill. Her talent added so much to those artists’ works, but she was ultimately wasted back there, behind them.
Thank goodness she stepped up, bringing her party to us. She started that step up with the TV singing competition show The Voice where again and again the judges were awestruck by her talent. She can sing anything; jazz, country-western, soul. Her voice is an instrument able to communicate with great depth and range. She can hit, carry, cultivate, and caress notes any which way required.
The house at Birdland Monday night was packed with adoring fans, all lovers of Wendy and her great music, many that have been following her for years, trusting Wendy to bring it all together for a wonderful evening. We were all part of the Wendy Moten experience that night, cheering and rising to one standing ovation after another.
She is billed as performing Richard Whiting’s songs, all classics, “She’s Funny That Way,” “My Ideal,” “Miss Brown to You,” and “Too Marvelous For Words,” but Moten throws into the mix some of her personal favorites, starting with her opening song, Seymour Simons’ “All of Me,” a perfect opening as she was sharing all of herself. She performs Janis Ian’s momentous “At Seventeen” bringing a beautifully hushed melancholy to the room. We held our hearts as she sang. Wendy said she discovered Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” four years ago on YouTube and delivers it with a depth beyond its original recording. She sings “Ode to Billy Joe” and we are all accompanying her and her wonderful band snapping our fingers in perfect unison. The haunting song cascaded over the room. The whole audience was on a joy ride with Wendy at the helm.
She is a consummate performer and generous with her support, standing by and enjoying her fantastic band members’, David Santos on Bass, Graham Hawthorne on Drums, Paul Livant on Guitar, and Andy Ezrin on piano, solo performances.
She tells us she has always loved music and learned it not from listening to records, not classics and R&B, but from television. From the opening theme songs to Perry Mason and Barnaby Jones. Themes created with full orchestras and brass sections.
She wraps up the evening with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and once again we are on our feet, but this time we can’t sit down. As we stood cheering, stomping, she cried out to all of us “This is a miracle!” and from the audience, a cry we were all thinking made its way across the audience and to the stage, “No Wendy! You are the Miracle!”
Wendy Moten has been in the business for 35 years and with age comes discipline, ease, and comfort in one’s own skin. It is to that ease I marvel at how she addresses her audience and her fellow artists on stage, all men with years of experience. Experience has a value that we in this country often dismiss. Experience comes with time, with discoveries and difficulties, with trying and failing, and lifting oneself up and trying again. Wendy Moten has had that life experience and she wears it with confidence.
Birdland is a great date night; food, drink, and a show and it will not break the bank. The wait staff is professional and personable. The food is excellent.
Birdland Jazz Club, 315 W 44th St #5402, New York, NY 10036
$50 tables / $40 bar + $20 food/drink minimum