Bobby Short

Celebrating 30 Years at the Cafe Carlyle

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From its title, one might reasonably suppose that Celebrating 30 Years at the Cafe Carlyle is either a live album or a compilation; it is neither. Instead, it finds 72-year-old singer/pianist Bobby Short, who began appearing at the Cafe Carlyle in Manhattan's Carlyle Hotel in 1968 and has continued ever since, fronting a sort of small big band (three reeds, five brass, plus the rhythm section of himself, bassist Frank Tate, and drummer Klaus Suonsaari) in a recording studio in August 1997. Maybe it's the track list, along with the anniversary, that justifies the title: Short has recorded most of these songs before, some of them dating back to his earliest LPs of the mid-1950s. Of course, as compositions, they date back even further than that; Short is a master at turning old Tin Pan Alley songs and show tunes of the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s into nightclub material. Usually, he plays those songs with only the rhythm section, so the addition of the band makes these performances special. But, as Cafe Carlyle patrons over the years have noted, Short's always husky voice has deteriorated, and considerable gravel is audible in his singing here, which tends to make the earlier recordings of these songs superior. (Short has never been, and has never billed himself as, a jazz musician. But Telarc released this album on its jazz imprint, and the instrumental medley of "Moten Swing" and "You're Driving Me Crazy" features some improvisation. And, of course, by the 1990s, traditional-pop singers were routinely reaching Billboard's traditional jazz chart, as Short did with this album.)

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