Heaven on Eartha
The annual visit of Eartha Kitta true triple threat performer before the term was ever coinedto Seattle's Jazz Alley is always welcomed by SRO crowds, and the recent late July engagement was no exception. Seattle has virtually no club comparable to those in New York or San Francisco which regularly book cabaret artists. Ms. Kitt, Ann Hampton Callaway, and Cleo Laine are among the few I have seen booked into Jazz Alley, which favors jazz musicians and jazz vocalists over crossover type talents such as the above mentioned ladies. But Eartha is as welcome as the sunshine in Seattle (and about as frequently seen) and this booking saw her at her best.
The set was a canny blend of some favorites from Kitt's own repertoire ("C'est Si Bon", "Here's to Life"), tunes by Golden Age composers ("Let's Face the Music and Dance" and "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All my Life") and some that resonate in clubs the world over ("Bésame Mucho" and "La Vie En Rose"). She plays with the men at the tables nearest the stage with the innuendo-laden "Champagne Tastes and Beer Bottle Pockets" and makes it easy to understand why the median age of her crowd is still somewhere around 35. Kitt's take on the Maltby/Shire story ballad "I Don't Remember Christmas" is a revelation; taken at a slowed down tempo, largely as a recitative, it packs a wallop not soon to be forgotten. From a long time in the making one-woman show written by her invaluable long-term pianist/musical director Darryl Waters came an eleven o'clock ballad of rare distinction with lyrics in part taken from Kitt's own haunting poetry.
The legendary chanteuse closed with a high octane "I Will Survive" and indeed she has survived nearly 70 years as a consummate entertainer, with constant appearances in film, both on and off Broadway, and reaching a still younger audience as Yzma The Evil Advisor for the Disney Channel's The Emperor's New School, capturing 2 Emmy awards (Best Vocal Performance in an Animated Television Production) for her efforts. But then the gal who has often been judged the supreme embodiment of "Catwoman" captured audiences hearts long ago, and seems destined to continue to do so.
Upcoming performers at Jazz Alley located in downtown Seattle at 6th and Lenora (with free parking) include Ahmad Jamal, Harry Shearer, and the Count Basie Orchestra. For more information visit www.jazzalley.com.