By Betsyann Faiella
Jazz singer Ali Webb is new to me, and an unusual jazz singer who never got the message (thank goodness!) that jazz singers don’t do patter! She actually takes us on a journey through her life with the song selections (overwhelmingly from the Great American Songbook) and brief, very humorous and/or touching stories about her life. She has a gentle, sometimes self-deprecating, way.
Her set began with “When You’re Smiling” (Larry Shay, Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin), and was followed by “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Cole Porter). She used a standard format here of singing once through the song, then having an instrumental break, then vocals again with more rhythmic and melodic variations, and I prayed I was not going to hear this pattern through the entire show. But then she started to speak, and the show had a point of view.
She happens to be the granddaughter of the inventor of SPAM, and she wrote a song about it, as well as the song that followed it titled “Eventually” and they were both evidence she should continue to write. As a singer, she swings and plays with melody very nicely.
Every song was a commentary on something she said or something she was about to say, and though there were several well-trod selections in the set, they were used to great effect to illustrate the story of her life, and therefore did not seem worn out. I have one strong criticism of the show repertoire and that is the inclusion of the theme from The Flintstones. I understand why she did it, but it broke the mood and in a set of strong music, it was really out of place. I thought the show got a little too personal at times, but I marveled at her candor. The Song, “Be Anything” (Irving Gordon) from whence her title comes, was sung as if to one of her kids as a baby.
Ali has picked up a bad habit I hope she will break, and that is some odd mic movements (I can’t even refer to this as “mic technique”) that bring the mic close and then far away from her mouth – that I can only think she learned by watching jazz singers. It only works if it works, and it didn’t work; the mic was often away from her mouth, unable to amplify sound – its purpose, after all. The herky-jerky thing was very disturbing. Must be stopped!
Ali was wonderfully accompanied by pianist and Music Director Wells Hanley, Randall Pharr on bass and Brian Caputo on drums.
All in all, I really liked Ali Webb. She was lovely. I hope she keeps doing what she’s doing (with the exceptions I’ve noted). She’s different.