By Holli Harms
It was a New York night. Artists flying in from all over, including Guatemala, for this one-night-only performance hosted by Russ Lorenson. All went out of their way to celebrate the release of Russ’s recording, “Standard Time: Live in New York.” He recorded the album at the Metropolitan Room back in 2008 with the original release date being 2009, however, due to circumstances it was put on hold. Then he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer (he is in now total remission and doing great). The illness and the effects of treatment left him unable to sing. Something you would feel would put a performer with such a beautiful instrument in a deep and dark place, but not Russ Lorenson. He picks up and moves forward, no rear-view mirror in his way, only the open horizon.
The magical show he created at The Triad is something I hope he continues. He put together videos from his past performances and scored them with live music of the same songs from those videos performed by an eclectic group of artists and friends, bringing their take to the songs chosen to be on his “new” American Songbook release. His feeling is, and I concur, that the American Songbook is an ever-expanding collection of artistry.
The show opened with Lorenson introducing himself and telling his story up to where he is standing before us. He then steps back; a screen comes down and we watch the Metropolitan Room showcase of Lorenson and his band. It was strange at first, we were watching a filmed performance of the songs we were about to hear live. But it quickly turned celebratory and, in the end, the combination of live and filmed created a rare and exciting cabaret experience that celebrated life in song.
This night was a lesson for some, and a reminder for others, of the mystery and intricacy of creating and performing. Different performers may sing the same song (act in the same role, paint the same subject) but each performer arrives with their own way of coming into a room and coming to a song.
The evening quieted the cacophony of noise in our heads from the day and reminded us of the beauty of music and words. It celebrated the expanse of the American Songbook and the cabaret artist and composer Ray Jessel. We welcomed to the stage Billy Stritch, Mary Foster Conklin, Lennie Watts, Jennifer Roberts, and Spencer Day, celebrating the music of John Pizzarelli, Tony Desare, Ray Jessel, Harry Connick Jr, Michael Feinstein, and more. From someone who had lost their voice, it was an evening of more and a celebration of the glorious music of this country and those who came here from other shores to color it in their way.
Mr. Lorenson, I think it would be a great gift to audiences and performers alike to take this very rare show on the road. Introducing works in the American Songbook they may not be familiar with and allowing performers the opportunity to bring those songs to the stage.
It’s such a special night to share with not just we few.
Russ Lorenson, Standard Time: Live In New York (LML Music) with all proceeds to benefit the American Songbook Association/Cabaret Scenes Magazine.
The Triad Theatre is located at 158 West 72nd Street, NYC between Amsterdam and Columbus (on the South side of W. 72nd Street) Tickets range from $35 to $60 plus online fees and there is a two-drink per person minimum. At this time, the theater is not accessible by elevator.