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Benn Bacot at Society Cabaret and Judy Collins at the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel

Also see Richard's review of The Convert

On Friday February 27, I caught San Francisco jazz singer and songwriter Benn Bacot at the Society Cabaret in the Hotel Rex. He is one of San Francisco's hidden treasures. With has a lyrical bass voice with rich resonance, he is known as "The Bass of the Bay." Becot's voice is reminiscent of Billy Eckstine with a little of Joe Williams and a dash of Nat King Cole.

Backed by David Austin on piano, Bob Blankenship on drums, and Chuck Bennett on bass, Benn Bacot did a smooth and laid back show with special guest stars Amanda King, Linda Kosut, and Helen Marie. It reminded me of those long ago times at jazz joints on 54th Street in New York.

Benn Bacot was heartfelt singing such songs as "Stolen Moments" and "Angel Eyes" and did a powerful rendition of Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man River." The artist was terrific singing a tribute to Harold Arlen which included snippets of "Get Happy, "Between Devil and the Deep Blue Seas," and "Stormy Weather," and ending up with a swinging version of "That Old Black Magic."

Amanda King, one of the best jazz vocalists around these parts, rocked singing "The Lady Is a Tramp," segueing into "I Walk a Little Faster," then switching to a poignant version of "On Green Dolphin Street" and ending up with the bouncy "Bye Bye Blackbird."

Following Amanda King, Benn Bacot was pitch perfect singing the old standard "Bésame Mucho" followed a song that Herb Jefferies made popular, "A Woman is a Worrisome Thing." The lovely vocalist Linda Kosut came to the mike to do a charming arrangement of "Skylark." This was followed by another guest, Helen Marie, strikingly singing a springy tune by Carlos Jobim called "Dindi." Bacot ended the show with a groovy arrangement of Angie Fisher's "I.R.S." As an encore he did a rocking arrangement of "Your Mother's Son-In-Law."

For the complete line up of upcoming shows at the Society Cabaret in the Hotel Rex, Post Street, San Francisco, go to www.societycabaret.org.


Grammy winner, Oscar nominee, and American music legend Judy Collins returned to the Venetian Room of the Hotel Fairmont atop Nob Hill February 28 and March 1. In this brand new show called Judy Collins Sings Sondheim the diva is previewing material to be performed on her 2016 world tour devoted to the works of the master theatre composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

Stephen Holden of the New York Times has called her "the ageless wild angel of pop" and he certainly is right. The artist has recorded 35 albums and continues to sell out concerts around the world. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. At 75, she still has the charisma to put on a terrific show.

Judy Collins Sings Sondheim is still a work in progress. Saturday night's show was a tad too long. It ran almost two hours and there was just too much talk about her own life in relation to the famous composer. She injected too many non-Sondheim songs in this two hour production: "Over the Rainbow," some songs from Jerome Kern, and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" which her fans loved. At the end she sang "Chelsea Morning."

Collins opened the show with a lovely rendition of "Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along followed by "Being Alive" from Company. Generally, she combined three songs after a long dissertation on her life, such as "I'm Still Here" from Follies, "Liaisons" from A Little Night Music and "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George.

A few of the Sondheim songs seemed to be out of her range and she did very little dramatic emphasis on some of the songs. However, there were songs where she really shone: "I'm Still Here" and "Finishing the Hat." She still has the sublime voice to sing "Send in the Clowns" which she recorded years ago. She was also pitch perfect on "I Remember Sky" from Evening Primrose.

Judy Collins was ably accompanied by her pianist Russell Walden.

Bottom line, if I might. She needs a director to put all of this show into proper prospective. At present it seems to be too far from a finished production.

Coming up next to the Bay Area Cabaret is Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli in Straighten up and Fly Right: A Tribute to Nat King Cole on March 21, Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford on April 19, and Bobby Conte Thornton and Lillias White with Billy Stritch on May 31.

To buy tickets to the upcoming events call 415-927-4636 or on line at www.bayareacabaret.org.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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