I should like more
of these settings than I do. Joan Morris
is, after all, the perfect Bolcom singer,
her voice poised between the swooping
and the resinous, between the trained
and the nicotine-stained supper club.
It’s an adept and able instrument for
playing out Weinstein’s lyrics and for
exploring Bolcom’s knowing melodic lines.
So why my problem?
Is it to do with a lack of melodic memorability,
or is it to do with a certain archness,
the kind that Blossom Dearie drips all
over her routines? No, it’s not in the
Dearie scale of archness. The audience
at the Flea Theatre – not a flea pit
from the sound of it – certainly doesn’t
share my lack of, well, my lack of enthusiasm.
And the words and music are clever,
no doubt. But why was I drawn more to
the Ancient Cabaret settings where the
epigrammatic and condensed feelings
seem that much more powerfully targeted.
The Fourth of them, Timomarchus’s
Picture of Medea in Rome, is especially
dramatic and its piano part calls for
some power of its own.
The four volumes of
Cabaret Songs are enjoyable and I wouldn’t
want to suggest that you’ll sit stony-faced
throughout. You won’t. There are little
touches of Latin Americana (Amor)
and overt fun (Fur – Murray the Furrier,
which come to think of it has a very
My Attorney Bernie ring
to the title, at least). Then there’s
Bolcom’s vamp piano in Song of Black
Max and the drunken frolic of Toothbrush
Time. If you want cross-dressing
try George and for hip jazz references
try the Radical Chic of Radical Sally.
So, with all these
pleasurable and well-loved Bolcom songs
studded throughout this near-hour long
recital I am doubtless a killjoy. My
loss, doubtless, but in the end this
recital didn’t quite hit the spot for
me. Centaur print the texts, a good
thing as the translations from the Greek
deserve scrutiny and if you happen to
miss one line from a Bolcom song you
tend to miss them all.