On Friday evening, April 5, Marilyn Maye plays the 7:00PM show at Feinstein’s and Anais Reno follows her at 9:30PM. One wonders if the club has made a point of deliberately booking the youngest outstanding singer of standards working today on the same night as, well, it seems politically incorrect to say the “oldest” (even though the artist herself doesn’t shrink from that term), but most experienced and venerated singer currently working the clubs. If you haven’t seen Marilyn Maye, you must have been hiding under a rock; her late-life rediscovery has been one of the major success stories of the music world and she is well worth all the praise. Simply put, there is no more exciting daredevil artist singing today, combining the chutzpah and high style of cabaret with the energy and musicality of jazz at its most thrilling. She has long since made the transition from “living legend” to “force of nature.”
You’re forgiven, however, for not knowing Anais Reno yet – after all, she is still only 15. Even so, she has already played most of the major rooms, and won competitions of both the Feinstein and Mabel Mercer Foundation. The term “old soul” is much bandied about and misused, it does not apply to, say, a young person who happens to like music or movies made before they were born – ie, not every kid with good taste, rare as that may be, is an “old soul.” I use the expression to describe a person with wisdom and skills beyond their years, and if it applies to anyone, it does to Ms. Reno. She has a beautiful deep sultry voice, as if she were 15-going-on-46, and interpretative skills even more so. While she may look like she stepped out of the ensemble from Annie, she sounds like someone you’d cast in Follies.
When Veronica Swift won the Thelonious Monk competition at age 21, she was already a finished product – not a work-in-progress. (Except to the extent that, hopefully, we are all works-in-progress.) Ms. Swift not only has one of the most beautiful voices of anyone singing today, but a remarkable musicianship that seems innate to her, as natural as breathing, and partly an inheritance from her parents, the late and perennially underappreciated bebop piano master Hod O’Brien and the outstanding singer-educator Stephanie Nakasian. Currently 24, she is already one of the major talents of our age and she has nowhere to go but up. Though her usual stomping grounds in New York are Birdland and Jazz at Lincoln Center, this Jazz Standard outing has been announced as a CD release event. Count me in.
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