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Cabaret and the American Songbook

For those of us who value the tradition of good melodies, meaningful lyrics and singers who could sing, the search for good 21st century tunes continues. I recall going to an open house in a new apartment complex in Vancouver a few years ago. The showcase apartment was the ultimate in urban sophistication with muted grey tones, stainless steel appliances, great view of the city and one the living room wall was a flat LCD panel showing Diana Krall singing and playing carbaret style. Her soothing voice and gentle jazz accompaniment came from hidden speakers in pure DVD hi-fidelity. If you had any doubts that the apartment represented ultimate sophistication, Diana's music removed them. This is carabet music, century 21.

Holden recalled the “The golden age of live entertainment faded with the incursions of rock ’n’ roll and television. From the late 1940s through the mid-’60s there were several tiers of live entertainment in New York: glamorous hotel supper clubs like the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel, and the Empire Room at the Waldorf-Astoria, high-end nightclubs like the Blue Angel, smaller hole-in-the-wall Midtown jazz clubs , and smaller piano bars scattered through Manhattan where one could drop in for the price of a drink. As the nightclub world has shrunk, that kind of informality is largely a thing of the past is there is a young generation to carry on the tradition?

"The few younger stars, like Harry Connick, Diana Krall and Michael Bublé, who have passed through cabaret and jazz clubs on their way to the national spotlight rarely look back. The concept of cabaret is only one of many in a genre that also shades into Broadway, traditional jazz, rock and even world music. Because a cabaret is the best place for a theatrically trained Broadway performer to step out of a role, it is a natural adjunct to the musical theater… instrumental jazz has established almost no footing in cabaret, where a charismatic personality matters as much as musical talent. The peak cabaret experience is a three-way relationship among singer, song (often a standard) and audience in which performers pour their life experiences in thematic shows using the American songbook as a platform; songs are stations in an autobiographical journey shared with the listener." *

*Diana Krall is Canadian, who came from Nanaimo, British Columbia, just across the Georgia Strait from where I live. She is by now a world class musician who travels widely and enjoys great success with her recordings. See the Wiki biography and the Diana Krall website.

*Stephen Holden. Saviors of the American Songbook. NYT October 26, 2008. On the occasion of the 19th annual Cabaret Convention featured four concerts at the Lincoln Center.