By Will Friedwald, The City View
For various reasons, some obvious and some less so, Valentine’s week has become the best time of the year to hear all the major singers – for instance, this year, both Freddy Cole and Dianne Reeves at Jazz at Lincoln Center. This weekend there are four vocalists worth hearing at Birdland – and with a little bit of timing, you can arrange to see two in one evening.
The headliner at Birdland this week is Catherine Russell, heiress to jazz royalty, and tops any list of the the best blues-and-jazz singers working today. In an age of big voiced blasters and screeching pseudo soul divas, Ms. Russell is the real thing, a blues chanteuse of extraordinary taste and subtlety. No doubt in honor of the holiday, and her latest album, the Grammy-nominated Alone Together, she focuses her attention on the romantic side of the blues. (Tuesday through Saturday)
At 34, pianist / vocalist Champian Fulton knows at least a thousand songs, and seems to have recorded them all, in a very prolific series of 11 albums in that many years. She’s a prodigious swinger and a gifted entertainer, and knows from zillions of hours of experience in playing before live audiences (even at her still-tender years) how to delight a crowd. Back in the day, she had a regular gig in New York, but now she’s on the road a lot, which means we New Yorkers don’t get to see her as often as we’d like. (Wednesday & Thursday)
Carole J. Bufford is a fearless singer who takes everything from 1920s blues to 1960s power pop and, along the way, a heaping helping of Broadway eleven o’clock numbers, in her stride. With a big voice and an even bigger personality, whatever she chooses to lay on us is bound to inspire both thrills and chills and make February feel like July. (Friday & Saturday)
There’s no one better that Karen Oberlin at putting together a cabaret show – honoring an performer (starting with her bright and shiny Doris Day tribute), a songwriter (everyone from Frank Loesser to Elvis Costello), or even an idea (I have a particularly warm memory of her show about nature and the great outdoors). She’s such a strong fixture in the New York cabaret scene that she can take an unexpected songwriter, like Mr. Costello and now Randy Newman, and show us all how their music undisputedly belongs in the cabaret canon. Fans of the beloved songwriter, whose music covers all the bases from dystopia to Disney, will be delighted to discover that they have a friend in her. (Sunday)