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January 25, 2011

JUDY BUTTERFIELD "UNDER THE MANHATAN MOON"

 
JUDY BUTTERFIELD “UNDER THE MANHATTAN MOON”

Butterfield is a mystery. In her show at the Rrazz Room it was more of homage to New York than it was to San Francisco. And why not? She won some Cabaret awards for her appearances in N.Y. – so, I guess in her mind she should thank them.

Some of the songs that Butterfield sings are very classy and jazzy. She’s a milder and gentle singer. That can be good, but on the other hand – it can be boring.  Most of her set was sleepy.

I grew up with Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Gershwin, Sammy Cahn and Oscar Levant music. Oh – what wonderful songs they brought to the world. But what I heard from Butterfield was low-energy music from this great music. “Teach Me Tonight,” (Sammy Chan/Gene DePaul) wrote this stunning and memorable song. Butterfield – lost the import of the music. It should break your heart – but not tear up the sheet music. Not even the simple “Tennessee Waltz” (Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King) prompted me to get up and dance.

Her “On The Street Where You Live” – (Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe) gave a clean, punchy, solid arrangement from the “Big Band Era”.  Liked it!  Butterfield came out a winner with “That Old Black Magic” – (Harold Arlen and Lyricist Johnny Mercer). The 1942 hit has been giving magic ever since. And this time, add Butterfield to the list of fine renditions.

The Gershwin “Do It Again” was sly and ‘wink’, ‘wink’. But, the pace dragged a little. She pleads “Blame it on My Youth” another wonder song, that did not have the heartbreak in it that it needs. Butterfield’s show was pleasant enough. She has a very dramatic stance – but her versions of most of the great American Song Book pales in comparison to others.

The arrangements were pretty good.  Here is Butterfield’s backup: Director, Clifford Bell - Musical Direction by Ken Muir with Muir also on the piano. 

The song set was a good one. I just wish that Butterfield would break out of the monotony once in a while. It was almost like attending a wake.  I know that she worked hard – but she has to playback the show and listen carefully to it.

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and Produced and hosted a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED))) 

This review will also be on www.beyondchron.org. 


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