A Young Jazz Singer Worth Checking Out

I mentioned the play Central Avenue Breakdown the other day and what a pleasant surprise it was. If any of you goes to see it, let us know what you think with a comment on the site. I had another pleasant musical surprise a few weeks ago. I was up at the house in The Berkshires and noticed that there was to be a jazz concert in my community. It was billed as the West 73rd Quartet doing the music of Kurt Weill. I hadn’t heard of the group and, while I have nothing against the music of Kurt Weill, I’ve never had a special affinity for it, compared to, say, Rodgers and Hart, Gershwin, Jerome Kern or Irving Berlin. But it was nearby and it was jazz and it was an interesting setting. So I went. The group, West 73rd, was a piano, bass and drums with a vocalist. The vocalist was Hilary Gardner and she was terrific. She has a pretty voice and a great jazz feel, whether on ballads of up-tempo numbers. She also had a strong stage presence and did a nice job talking about some of the music and bringing it to life. She apparently gigs a lot in the New York area, so you should definitely check her out and see her if you can. The rest of the band was quite strong as well, Frank Ponzio on piano, Saadi Zain on bass, and Vito Lesczak on drums. The music was carefully thought out and arranged and it was quite inventive without taking away from the beauty of the melodies or the message of the lyrics. As for the Kurt Weill music, there were some of the obvious standards, such as Speak Low, done beautifully as a slow ballad, and September Song, a bit more up tempo than usual. There were also some nice numbers I was either unfamiliar with or barely familiar with, collaborations with Langston Hughes, Ogden Nash, Ira Gershwin and even Alan Jay Lerner. I picked up a copy of the CD:  The Kurt Weill Project, A Song About Forever, and it’s quite good, although I have to say I did prefer the live performance. Anyway, if you have the opportunity to see this group, or to see Hilary Gardner in this or another setting, you should definitely check her out. She’s a jazz singer worth hearing, very musical, and hopefully we’ll hear a lot more from her and about her in the future. You can check her out yourself at her own Web site, hilarygardner.com,  where there are plenty of nice clips, including some from The Kurt Weill Project and a really nice version of Gershwin’s Love Walked In.




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