By Tulis McCall
Let’s begin here. Marilyn Maye has left the building, and it is too late to see her at Birdland. She is however returning to New York – Carnegie Hall please – to perform with the New York Pops on March 24. You can get tickets HERE
I suggest you to this NOW because that show is nearly sold out. I have a sneaking suspicion that she will return to 54 Below in April to celebrate her 95th birthday. The staff at 54 is predicting the show title will be “Marilyn Maye – 95 And Still Alive!!!”
Now – on to what you missed. Here is the deal – I have been fortunate enough to see Ms. Maye perform for almost a decade. And after the first 5 or so years, I could not help but think – “Will there be anything new tonight? Will it be just the same old same old?” Answer to the first question is YES. Answer to the second question is NO. That is because Maye makes every not she sings a new moment. As a matter of fact my guest the other night, Sidney Myer, had seen the early show and found the late show to be entrancing and as far away from hum drum as a show could be.
Marilyn Maye breathes music. Performing may be the key element that keeps her filled with a vitality that is contagious. Surrounded by en extraordinary trio (Ted Rosenthal – piano and conductor, Tom Hubbard – bass and Daniel Glass – drums) she glows. The night began with a Cole Porter Medley (I Concentrate On You, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Just One Of Those Things, It’s All Right With Me, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, All Of You) that was so smooth it sounded like one song.
The rest of the night was an out and out celebration. 2022 might have been tough for some but for Maye it was a great year. She gives us “I’ve Got The World On A String” as evidence, and her performance was enough to make me rethink the last 12 months. Her Rainbow Medley put a new glitter on a Judy Garland-owned song. “Here’s That Rainy Day” she told us was Johnny Carson‘s favorite song. The man who made America laugh every night always favored a stroll down Melancholy Lane. She wanders into “One For My Baby” and you think that you are Joe the bartender listening to Maye’s woes.
“Lush Life” is an invitation to walk across a crystal clear pond on lily pads of magic. Period.
A quick homage to Steve Allen (This Could Be The Start of Something Big) who discovered her performing in a Kansas CIty nightclub and gave her a spot on his show that lead to doors opening big time.
She then pops off with “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck. Yeah, that one where the rhythm is in a five count and the lyrics are insane.
May give plenty of air time to her trio. Watching her appreciate them is another lesson in musicianship. Of course the feeling is mutual so the entire evening is a love fest that spills over into the audience.
The evening winds up with more celebration and salutation. Maye loves life and insists that we all do the same. In her presence it is easy to do. Listening to Maye you are obliged to open your heart and let the sun shine in. Maye performs an emotional root canal on your heart as she glitters herself around the stage. She has been crafting these songs for more than 70 years. Her performance is so dazzling that, when the show is over, you have to sit at your table for a moment or two before you can gather your wits and your coat and your scarf.
You leave Birdland walking on air because Marilyn Maye has made you feel, down to your toes, what all those songs are talking about.
Made your March reservations yet?