When I think of Linda Purl, I remember her from her roles on Happy Days as Richie’s occasional girlfriend Gloria and Fonzie’s steady girlfriend Ashley. While growing up she was a familiar face in the countless movies of the week, so it was with intense curiosity, that I headed to Feinstein’s/54Below to see her perform in Big Band Romance. Linda’s debut at Feinstein’s/54Below found her in a sexy black dress, with her adorable face shinning through. It was a mixture of the girl next door verses a sex kitten.
Her show honors female jazz singers like Ella, Peggy, Anita O’Day, Helen Merrill, Rosemary and Billie. Not only did Ms. Purl give these legends tribute, but she made these songs her own, thanks to the fabulous arrangements. Ms. Purl truly has a love for these women of song and her wonderful banter lets us know so much more.
Purl has a really interesting timber to her voice. She has wonderful phrasing and diction. Staring off with “Steve Allen’s This Could be the Start of Something Big”, she was backed by The Diva Orchestra, a fifteen member jazz ensemble started by the phenomenal drummer and music director of the Diva’s, Sherrie Maricle.
A tribute to Billie Holiday had the band playing softly for “Trav’lin’ Light”. Holiday’s signature “Them There Eyes”, was given a perky treatment, that set the band to swinging.
Purl brought back the fabulous Anita O’Day with Jerome Kern’s “Pick Yourself Up”.
“The Nearness of You” was one of several numbers with a Latin background in tribute to Helen Merrill.
Maricle’s drum solo on Anita Day’s “Nobody Else But Me” and “Midnight Caravan” was hot and reminiscent of Gene Krupa. Purl excelled on both these numbers.
Peggy Lee’s version of “When the Sun Comes Out,” needed the orchestra to allow Purl’s voice to excel. Sometimes her voice was overwhelmed by such a big sound. Loved the dirty jokes that Peggy Lee told and the way Purl tells a story.
Ella Fitzgerald’s S’Wonderful” and medley of “It’s Too Darn Hot”/”It’s Alright With Me” were award winning numbers.
Tom Wopat joined Purl on “Come Rain or Come Shine”, after her story about Rosemary Clooney and knowing her personally.
One of my favorite moments was “My Romance” with just music director Tedd Firth on piano. His intro to the song was magical.
Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here With You” ended the set.
Purl is personable, has the it factor in spades and can deliver a song. I look forward to seeing her again.
You can see Linda sing on October 10, Ms. Purl will be celebrating Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Cook and Julie Wilson at Jazz at Lincoln Center. On on December 10th at 7 pm Linda Purl, Tom Wopat and Musical Director Tedd Firth will be celebrating the holidays with “An Evening of the Seasons Joy in Jazz” at Birdland.
Video by Magda Katz