Written By Karen Feld
Should we forget it’s the holiday season, Steve Tyrell, performing at the Café Carlyle for his eighth Christmas season, reminds us with his opening numbers, “Let It Snow” and “Christmas Blues.” But it wasn’t until he dug up lyricist Sammy Cahn’s buried treasure, “It’s Crazy,” featuring Lew Soloff’s trumpet that we felt the real spirit of Cahn’s lyrical legacy.
Tyrell’s pleasant and folksy style suited his selection of Cahn’s collaborations with Julie Styne and Jimmy Van Heusen, but didn’t approach the Rat Pack presence or passion to which Tyrell aspires in his engaging anecdotes. Yet the familiarity of the songbook, which included such standards as “Come Fly With Me” and “Teach Me Tonight” to those of a certain age, is a given.
His arrangement for “It’s Magic,” was powerful with David Mann on saxophone. That’s also the title song for his upcoming album, the songs of Sammy Cahn. Tyrell’s six talented musicians – in addition to Soloff and Mann include Musical Director/pianist Quinn Johnson; Ed Howard on bass; Kevin Winard on drums; and Jon Allen on keyboards –manage to mimic the sound of a big orchestra which certainly enhances Tyrell’s vocals. This was especially true of the bass and drums in “Tender Trap.”
Tyrell, 67, shared inside anecdotes about Cahn and his contemporaries including Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Jackie Gleason. Many of the remembrances were gleaned from Cahn’s widow, Tita, who happened to be at the show Wednesday evening with music legend Clive Davis, which prompted Tyrell to say afterwards, “I felt like I was singing in front of the principal.”
Tyrell did justice to one of Cahn’s favorites, the Oscar-winning “Call Me Irresponsible,” which Tyrell introduced as “a five syllable song written by a guy from a one syllable neighborhood.” A highlight of the show was “Saturday Night,” an arrangement heavy on high energy swing and Mann’s saxophone. But none of his repertoire topped the encore, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” with Soloff’s amazing trumpet solo.
Steve Tyrell continues at Café Carlyle thru New Year’s.