By Victoria L. Dammer

From its birth in the early 20th century, jazz constantly evolved, and award-winning Australian pianist/composer Matt Baker performed his take of one of America’s iconic composers in A Rhapsody of Gershwin at his debut performance at Chelsea Table and Stage.

The incredibly personable Baker, currently living in New York City, was accompanied by an all-star band from the local jazz scene, including Grammy-nominated vocalist Nicole Zuraitis, 3rd generation jazz musician trumpeter and vocalist Benny Benack III, guitarist Max Light, Kevin Hailey on double bass and Curtis Nowosad on the drums.

Baker started his show with Rhapsody Opening, performing an inspiring piano solo followed by a stirring trumpet solo by Benack. A glance around the room confirmed the new arrangement of this original score was entrancing; the audience was finger-snapping, head bobbing, and foot tapping. The sight of immediate fan participation reaffirmed these two multi-talented performers’ effect on engaging the crowd.

With a soft piano intro, Baker played his updated version of A Foggy Day, a song first introduced in the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sang their version. Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble’ performed theirs with a slow swinging tempo and full orchestras. But nothing beats Baker’s upbeat rendition, emphasizing the need for new versions of familiar music.

Zuraitis vocalized the hit Summertime. She sang her way through several octaves in her powerful, sultry voice that has conquered several styles of music, including pop and blues and jazz. Her style is comfortable to watch and equally persuasive in any genre.

The group performed Love Walked In for the first time in their ongoing show, and Benack thrilled all in attendance with his impeccable ability to scat to the tune, producing a loud round of applause from listeners.

Baker, ever so the musical genius, rearranged the three original movements from Gershwin’s Concerto in F into individual scores, and the audience was mesmerized by his mastery of chords on the piano. The composition filled the room with musical electricity, and it was apparent Baker had put much thought into the redo—it was absolute perfection.

The band played Do it Again, a “Cheeky little song,” Baker proclaimed. Benack played along with a mute, softening the music to an almost sad weeping sound that was delightful to hear. Baker said, “Let’s do the swinging version” of They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and it was indeed rousing.

I Got Rhythm I /Fascinating Rhythm was the frantic finish to an astounding performance by Baker, Zuraitis, Benack, and the rest of the band.

When Baker was asked who inspired him to write the newest version of Gershwin tunes, he replied it was Herbie Hancock. “I wanted to bring Rhapsody in Blue to the Jazz stage,” Baker said. And he certainly did in a superb presentation.

Chelsea Table and Stage presents jazz pianist Matt Baker in A Rhapsody of Gershwin, a new take on the iconic composer, with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis, trumpeter/vocalist Benny Benack III, guitarist Max Light, Kevin Hailey on the double bass and Curtis Nowosad on the drums. Press by Dan Fortune at Fortune Creative.

CHELSEA TABLE and STAGE opens the doors to hospitality, entertainment, and enjoyment every night, featuring state-of-the-art sound and lighting, a 10-seat in-theatre bar, a lofted VIP mezzanine for private groups, and table seating for the perfect date night. The ever-changing menu and entertainment schedule mean guests never have the same night twice. CHELSEA TABLE and STAGE is located inside the Hilton New York Fashion District at 152 West 26th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenue). Purchase tickets at @chelseatableandstage