Monday Musings – October 29, 2012

by Dr. Vincent Patterson

Barbara Cook

Barbara as Barbie Hallem in Alfred Hitchcock Present’s –
A Little Sleep – 1957 
Photo courtesy of Barbara Cook’s official website

Yep, it’s THICK out there, heavy rain, winds whipping it around, bordering on ice with a Canadian LOW coming down the jet stream, plowing full force into Hurricane Sandy.  Between this confluence, high tide coming up Chesapeake Bay and a full moon, the weather jocks are calling it “The Perfect Storm,” others “Frankenstorm.”  Whatever; we’re in for it!  We’re just praying the trees fall back in to the woods, not this way again!  Aargh!!


One of my Fave performers is the longtime interpreter of the Great American Songbook, Barbara Cook.  Even tho’ she turns 85 next week, she’ll sing her annual show at Carnegie Hall, a fixture since her debut there in 1975!  Too much, eh.  “Retirement?” she quips, “It’s a passing thought but I’m still singing well and there’s this new material I love to do in a swingy, even jazzy way.” [She was interviewed by David Mermelstein in the Oct. 17 WSJ.]

The DRG label just released her new album, Loverman, on which you can hear this new material.  Assembled from her cabaret act, it includes “Let’s Fall in Love,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “Makin’ Whoopee.”  She said the songs are a “real departure,” that the “Swingy stuff” veered from her comfort zone of ballads and more introspective music.  “But I love the music so much I had to do it.”

Even tho’ her top range has slipped, she said, “I feel fortunate to still have enough range and I sing in lower keys, which seems to work.”  The writer states,”… Ms. Cook’s unparalleled gift for phrasing continues to beguile. Her secret? Feeling a personal connection to a song and the delivering its lyrics straightforwardly.”

Tho’ she claims to “not read music,” she recalls seeing stage greats Josephine Baker, Eddie Cantor and Marlene Dietrich perform live; “they were real entertainers,” she said.  Her career began w/ the 1951 musical “Flahooley” and gained attention in “Plain & Fancy,” (1955), “Candide “ (1956) and the 1957 “Music Man” for which she won a Tony as Marian the Librarian.  Last year she was a KenCen Awards honoree.

The article concludes, “Ms. Cook is not threatened by more popular musical genres. ‘I can enjoy Lady Gaga – she has a great voice and is smart as hell. Plus, what she says to young kids is You’re o.k., You’re fine, You can do it. And that’s a really good message.’ “  Check out Ms. Cook on YouTube, when you get a chance and see what a terrific songster she really is.  ENJOY!

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