Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Janis Siegel and friends at the Side Door in Old Lyme, CT

Janis Siegel at the Side Door

A relatively new jazz club has quietly carved a place out for itself in the otherwise shrinking world of jazz music venues. The Side Door Jazz Club is located a stone’s throw from Interstate 95 off exit 70 at 85 Lyme Street in Old Lyme, CT.  It is part of the Old Lyme Inn, a beautifully restored bed, breakfast and restaurant that was originally built as a family homestead in 1856.

Left in relative disrepair, the Inn was purchased and renovated by Owners Ken and Chris Kitchings in 2011. Ken, a lifelong jazz fan who had been previously involved bringing artists to the Garde Theater in New London, CT., decided that an unused “side door” space would be the perfect spot for a jazz club. Seeing his vision through, the Side Door Jazz Club was opened in May of 2013. Since then Ken and his booking manager Jan Mullen have brought some amazing top-tier talent to their strategically located club along the Connecticut shoreline. It surely doesn't hurt that the club is almost equidistant for musicians who are traveling along the Boston to New York corridor, two major jazz hubs.  The  the club is comfortable and well appointed, the vibe is welcoming with reasonable acoustics and a generous stage and Ken’s exuberance is infectious. I don’t doubt that many performers find the venue a welcome respite.

On Friday night January 10, 2014 Janis Siegel played two sets of music, much of it from her latest album Nightsongs: A Late Night Interlude, her tenth solo release. Janis’s emotive voice, somewhere between a mezzo-soprano and a contaltro, has been heard for the last thirty-two years as the part of the Grammy Award winning group Manhattan Transfer. Her recent cd is her first self-produced album and is a great collaboration with the pianist/arranger John diMartino, a first call artist who has great sensitivity working with vocalists. The songs include selections include Billy Strayhorn “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,”  Rogers & Hart's “Lover,” Brenda Russell, Will Kennedy and Russell Ferrante’s “Love and Paris Rain” along with a song  penned by Bob Belden with lyrics by Siegel herself “Sweet September Rain.”  

On this evening, during the first set, she was joined by her pianist/arranger diMartino and the bass player, the talented Boris Kozlov, who also is part of the pianist's working trio.

The set started off with Ms. Siegel, a Brooklyn born chanteuse, appropriately singing the campy Lorraine Feather song “I Know the Way to Brooklyn.”  The song initiated the crowd to brief but potent solos by both Mr. di Martino and Mr. Kozlov. Ms. Siegel can navigate through multiple genre’s, from cabaret to bossa to torch to scat with ease and agility, and on Friday night before a receptive crowd she did just that.

Before the start of the second song, Ms. Siegel introduced the Brazilian percussionist/vocalist Nanny Assis, who joined her and the band for most of the first set. Mr. Assis, originally from Bahia, Brazil and now a CT native,  can make a panderio ( a small, round-shaped hand drum with jingles native to Brazil) sound like a full drum kit. His presence lent the proceedings a genuine rhythmic element that was infectious.

John di MArtino, Boris Kozlov, Janis Siegel and Nanny Assis

Ms. Siegel introduced Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Slow,” a lilting, breezy bossa  with Mr. Assis on congas. The song captivated the crowd with Ms. Siegel’s sensuous vocals deftly accompanied by Mr.  diMartino’s delicate piano fills and Mr. Kozlov’s warm bass lines. Ms. Siegel introduced the next tune, another bossa-infected treatment of the Rogers & Hart song “Lover.” Ms. Siegel sang with Mr. Assis, who was now on panderio. The two seemed to have fun with the music. Playing off each other in a joyful interaction that worked off the intimacy of the lyrics. They demonstrated a stage simpatico that had the audience smiling approvingly.

Following the Brazilian theme, Ms. Siegel commissioned Mr. Assis to sing a duo on the sultry Jobim tune “If You Never Come to Me.”  Mr. Assis has a soft, unassuming tenor that perfectly complements Ms. Siegel’s tawny mezz-soprano. The two showed a vocal and stage chemistry that was palpable and they charmed the audience with their subtle harmonies and moving interplay. Ms. Siegel is a competent scat artist and she used it to great effect as Mr. Assis sang softly in Portuguese.

The next song of the set was of personal significance to Ms. Siegel.  She related that she wrote the lyrics with her boyfriend Harry Levine to a cinematic instrumental by Bob Belden, that begged for words. The title “Sweet September Rain,” a slow ballad, featured Ms. Siegel, in a slightly higher register, poignantly describing memories of a past love affair. Mr. diMartino’s solo was particularly moving and Mr. Kozlov’s arco-bass at the coda was sublime.

Ms. Siegel offered a vocal version of the funk jazz, Lee Morgan composition “The Sidewinder,” with lyrics written by Jon Hendricks to describe a philandering gigolo.  With a distinctive ostinato bass line played expertly by Mr. Kozlov, the song had Ms. Siegel demonstrating her vocalese technique. She followed the serpentine tune expertly in a display of vocal gymnastics that was quite impressive. Mr. diMartino’s funky piano lines conjured up images of the late Bobby Timmons. The first set concluded with a Cuban Bolero inspired tune and a Stephen Sondheim composition showing the depth and range of Ms. Siegel’s repertoire.

Ms. Siegel continues to prove that she is in the upper echelon of vocal performers and at the Side Door she was in top form. Her fine band was completely in sync with her music. Happily the Side Door Jazz Club is a welcome addition to the CT jazz scene.

No comments:

Post a Comment