Material: The niece of legendary songwriters George and Ira Gershwin, Alexis Gershwin has a powerful connection to their legacy. Under the sensitive yet adventurous direction of Steven Applegate, her heartfelt, alternately graceful and swinging 16-song romp through cherished classics includes everything from a dramatic take on “S’ Wonderful” and the sly and playful “Naughty Baby” to lush renderings of “I’ve Got A Crush On You” and “Someone To Watch Over Me.” At one point, the spotlight turned to her entertaining and harmonically versatile singers, who alternated lead vocals on “The Gershwin Medley,” which included “(I’ve Got) Beginner’s Luck,” “Shall We Dance” and “Who Cares?”
Musicianship: All great jazz singers know the value of crafty, resonant arrangements and thoughtful, dynamic support, and Gershwin’s inviting vocals (with moments of breathy grace and higher points conveying deeper intimacy and connective power) were enhanced by an ensemble of L.A. stalwarts. Landis and Leatherbarrow provided pocket grooves and percussive swing, while Rawlins offered wistfulness and lively soul on the keys. Higgins chimed in beautifully with colorful sax solos and gorgeous flute harmonies.
Performance: While Gershwin’s connection to the material and her wonderful interaction with the band made for a mostly engaging show, its ultimate promise seemed slightly unfulfilled. Considering that she has personal family stories that only she can tell, it would have been wonderful to be treated to contextual anecdotes about Ira and being raised in Gershwin world. Without that, it came across as a reasonably entertaining but all too quick run through “greatest hits.”
Summary: Gershwin has dedicated her musical life to celebrating great musical treasures of the 20th Century, and her heart and soul are in these songs. She conveyed this passion with a spirited show featuring A-list cohorts. But she would benefit by telling personal stories that would set her apart from anyone else covering these tunes. I hope that one day she will perhaps incorporate those into a book so the world can know the deeper places of her heart.
The Players: Alexis Gershwin, vocals; Steve Rawlins, piano; Randy Landis, bass; Bob Leatherbarrow, drums; Rusty Higgins, saxophone, flute; Sarah Brandon, vocals; Will North, vocals; Kara Shaw, vocals.
Photo by Ed Krieger
Alexis Gershwin sings the Gershwin Event
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