By David Walters
I went to see the one-night-only Karen Mason Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! show at Birdland. Karen is a 13-time MAC Award winner (Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs), has won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years, and was the recipient of the 2019 MAC Lifetime Achievement Award. And if you click on her name above, the link will take you to her website where you can see all the amazing things she’s done highlighting the talent that she is.
Unfortunately, this Christmas show was not one of those amazing things. There was a melancholy tone that pervaded the evening that was antithetical to what a Christmas show should be. She teased with being bawdy, but she wasn’t, she played with being traditional, but she wasn’t, she dumped on tourists where there were several in the audience around me (the New Yorker), and it didn’t bring any of us in.
Birdland is a wonderful performance space with several different acts every night going into the wee hours. Click on their name link above and find some amazing talent appearing there. The service at the tables is excellent and the food and drink menus provide plenty of delicious options, most with a southern slant.
With all her accolades, Ms. Mason doesn’t need a wonderful review from me. That’s good because I really can’t give one here. Her annual Christmas show, which she’s been performing for many years, was not warm and fuzzy as a Christmas show should be. Nor did it put me in the Christmas spirit, though I was wanting more than anything to walk out the door in one.
Karen is working with her music director of 30 years, Christopher Denny who plays piano during the show. That length of time working together shows in their repartee and the ease they have with each other. Mr. Denny created the artistic highlight of the evening in a duet he sang with Ms. Mason blending Joni Mitchell’s River with Joy to the World. She is also supported on stage by the scintillating bass of Tom Hubbard who is a standard in the New York music scene performing with countless musical acts. If he’s got your back, you’re good. Barry Kleinbort was the director and has been working with Ms. Mason and Mr. Denny for almost as long as the two of them have been partnering.
There is a $40 music charge and a $20 food and beverage minimum. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in Manhattan. For reservations, please call (212) 581-3080 or visit www.BirdlandJazz.com.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.