The Two of Clubs
Eddie Lawrence at the 88s
The Stonewall Bistro has quietly established itself as a quality piano bar. It's not a "sing-a-long" experience, but rather a "listen and enjoy" evening, particularly on Saturday nights when Eddie Lawrence is at the 88s. He's a singer/pianist with a warm smile to match his warm tenor. Best of all, he's someone who loves and respects the classics. And he finds classics in all eras and in a wide variety of styles. Spend an evening with Eddie Lawrence and you'll cover the musical waterfront.
On the late Saturday night that we dropped in, the first song we heard him do was "Skylark" - and we felt right at home. He has a lush piano style that served him well when he played "If It Takes Forever"; he provided the rich romantic lyric with delicate understatement. Soon thereafter he turned still more contemporary with Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust," adding helpful information about the song's derivation and its (and Baez's) relationship to Bob Dylan. Throughout the evening, his easy, informative banter was a tonic.
It's fair to say that the music matched the food at the Stonewall Bistro: tasty and beautifully presented. Lawrence covered show tunes, pop songs, Irish music, comedy numbers, and standards He even took requests. And all of this happens with no cover and no minimum. You come in, you eat, you drink, and if you like what you hear, you drop something meaningful into his tip jar. Between the dining and the listening, you've got yourself a sweet Saturday night.
A Man with a Trumpet
Young Nate Birkey plays the trumpet and sings. He has a smooth jazz style when he plays, and an ingratiating character voice when he sings. His program at The Encore is a mix of standards and his own compositions. So you'll hear songs like "I'll Be Seeing You" and "Nature Boy" buck up against his own tunes like "Natalie" and "Penelope." He's a good songwriter - but not so good that his own songs (while promising) don't tend to pale against the famous numbers. He might consider changing the proportion and simply feature a few of his songs in a larger mix of classics.
You certainly can't go wrong with Birkey's musicianship. He's a gifted trumpet player backed by a swell trio that consists of Ted Rosenthal on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums.
Show and Tell
Here are some of the shows we've either seen and recommend or that we hope to see (and therefore recommend in advance):
Waiting for the 5,6,7,8 ... the words and music of David Austin is coming back to The Encore on Thursday, May 12th at 9:30pm, Sunday, May 15th at 9:30pm, and Monday, May 16th at 9:30pm. In addition to Austin singing his own tunes, he'll have some other performers on hand to sing them, as well. Austin is that relatively rare breed of songwriter who is also a dynamic performer. He's got something to say so give him a try - along with his co-stars Charlie Parker and Michael Mendiola.
The always intriguing Isengart will be performing at Opia on Monday, May 23rd at 9pm. He's offering a "new Pan-European repertoire, translated into English." Isengart (he just goes by the one name) is a fascinating and stylish performer. Please note that once you pay the $15 cover charge, for this one show there is no minimum.
Also at Opia, the always entertaining John Wallowitch who will be getting away with musical murder every late Saturday night (starting at 10:45pm). His show is called Wallowitch Uncensored: "An Evening of romance and Filth. This is one funny songwriter who has written some of the classic comedy material of our time, including "Bruce."
Over at the Hideaway Room at Helen's, you can't possibly go wrong with Baby Jane Dexter. She is bringing back her acclaimed show Bread + Gravy on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in May starting at 9:15pm. She is, deservedly, one of cabaret's greatest stars.