On May 7, songstress Libby York made a rare New York appearance at Jazz at Kitano. With her were John DiMartino on piano, Martin Wind on bass and Warren Vache playing cornet and a special vocal duet. Ms. York's steeliness and humor were apparent when she was kept off stage for 10 minutes by fire alarms, lights and firefighters themselves. Later, she sang Cole Porter's lyric “You'd be so nice by the fire....but no fire engines!” This moment was typical of an evening marked by authenticity and humor. Once Ms. York and ensemble were on stage, they played selections mainly from York's new album “Memoir”, based on music she remembers hearing on her parent's '78's.
Libby York has been compared to Diana Krall, but her voice is definitely deeper and earthier. In fact, there were times where an ascent into a higher register would have been welcome. Her relaxed manner and sultry voice serve her well though, in jazz classics like Cy Coleman's “When in Rome”. Leaning against the piano during John DiMartino's beautiful piano solo, she seemed almost a Jessica Rabbit-like figure.
It seems the set was put together particularly for New Yorkers. The lyrics of jazz standard “Take me Back to Manhattan” gave York a chance to connect with the New York audience. This song was also one of many beautiful trumpet solos by Warren Vache. Most entrancing was his solo during Girl Talk. At all moments, serious and comic, Vache's music takes the listener in. He is a tried and true jazz cornetist with both the chops and soul to make the music come alive.
His turns of phrase brings the listener in from the beginning. He is a joy to listen to. Martin Wind also contributed some beautiful moments to the show, especially during a beautiful bowed bass solo during “Thanks for the Memory”. Throughout the show, Wind and Vache gave beautiful support. Blending at the right moments and contributing moments of counterpoint at others, they clearly understand ensemble communication.
A high point of the morning was York and Vache's performance of “Let's Call the Whole Thing Off”. In an entertaining display of what he calls “controlled groaning”, he vocally sparred with York. The two showed a bright connection and musicality with both accompaniment and solos by DiMartino and Wind. Overall, “Let's Call the Whole Thing Off” was a great showpiece for the musicianship and humor of the entire ensemble. The 'rhythm section' in this jazz ensemble is clearly much more.