Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Barry Lloyd Brings Back the Golden Age of Cabaret
Barry Lloyd, San Francisco's first class entertainer and pianist, recently presented an 80-minute song fest of comedy and romantic songs by little known composer Murray Grand under the title Not A Moment Too Soon!. This talented artist has been presenting his one man revues at the Empire Plush Room since 2000. He received a Drama-Logue Award for outstanding solo performance in 2000 for his Cole Porter show, A Swell Party. The artist presented songs of Hugh Martin at the Purple Onion in 2004 where the composer praised him as being the best interpreter of his songs.
Murray Grand has written music and lyrics for some of the great singers in the cabaret field including Eydie Gorme, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae, Jane Connell and Alice Ghostly. He contributed hysterically witty songs to New Faces of 1952 and 1956. One of the doleful songs for cabaret artists was "Guess Who I Saw Today," which June Carroll vividly sang in New Faces of 1952 (Nancy Wilson recorded the song later and it is one of the 25 songs that is in the Smithsonian collection of top songs of the era).
Barry Lloyd, with fingers flying at the piano and singing with his distinctive modulated baritone voice, brought back those wonderful golden days at the Blue Angel in New York during the middle '50s where I use to listen keenly to clever lyrics from some of the little known composers. His phrasing of each song is impeccable. There is the sophistication of a Bobby Short about him. Sometimes in some of the comedy songs, I could hear Noel Coward sitting at a piano singing those witty stylish words.
Backed by Daniel Fabricant on bass and Randy O'Dell on drums, Barry started with "Not A Moment Too Soon" sung with a samba beat (the song was recorded by Peggy Lee and Mabel Mercer, both in 1960). He went immediately into a side-splitting song, "Isn't She Lovely." In "Up Yours," the lights of the intimate club were turned up bright and he sang this comedy song to individual members of the audience. Later he presented an intensely dramatic portrayal of a drunken pianist in the wee hours of the morning singing a song composed by Cy Coleman with lyrics by Murray Grand called "Boozers and Losers."
Many of the songs that Barry sang were relatively unknown to the general cabaret-going public, such as the French song "Comment Allez-Vous?," which was recorded by Blossom Dearie in 1956, and the lovely "So This Is Paris" from the 1956 production of Four Below at Julius Monk's Downstairs bar that I frequented back in those golden days of cabaret. Barry sang a soul searching rendition of "Thursday's Child" that I remember from an Eartha Kitt recording in 1955.
Barry did great justice to the songs with his ingratiating melodic and precise enunciation of the lyrics. Outstanding was a song that Maggie Smith introduced in previews for New Faces of 1958 called "Love at an Auction" (it was cut before the show officially opened). Also, a clever parody on Cole Porter's "oyster" song called "Deep Sea Diver" with even funnier lyrics than the original, that are quite naughty.
I was particularly floored by a song that John Wallowitch and Bertram Ross recorded in 2002 called "You Must Remember to Forget," a sophisticated name-dropping of 1930s and '40s celebrates, the punch line being if you can remember, you are reaching the age 80. All I can say is "Ouch."
Anyone who mentions the eclectic work of this composer and lyricist must remember two of Murray Grand's most famous songs. The very dramatic plaintive "Guess Who I Saw Today" from New Faces was spoken quietly by Barry, an effective piece about a person who has discovered the other half's indiscretions. On the opposite end was the very clever side-splitting "April in Fairbanks" with some of funniest lyrics ever written. I remember the wonderful Jane Connell bringing the house down with her rendition in New Faces of 1956.
Christopher Blacke of Yerba Buena Magazine says it best about this artist. "If you've never heard of Barry Lloyd, you've missed a rare talent." I second that statement. The artist played only two nights at the Empire Plush Room (June 19-20) to a full and appreciative audience. Hopefully, we will be hearing more about this amazing talent in the future. He is currently working on a one-person show as a tribute to the late Bobby Short. This will be premiered in the winter of 2007.