Various Artists

National Geographic: Destination New York

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An album from Sugo Music's collaboration with National Geographic taking musical looks at various destinations. This one focuses on New York City. More specifically, on the cabaret scene of Manhattan. It's the basic, stripped-down version of performance that makes cabaret what it is. A single vocalist with a single pianist accompanying in an intimate form. All but one or two of the singers on this album are female jazz vocalists, all quite capable with their powerful voices. That said, it might be the quicker paced Billy Stritch that provides the most captivating performance, with some heavier-duty bop-based jazz powering him along through some extended scatting. The mood is relaxed for the majority of the album, with an intimate feel to the music (as there should be). The singers featured here aren't necessarily well-known, but they're all quite well-versed, showing off some outstanding technique, and more importantly, some outstanding power in their voices. The composers of the songs are all the standards for the genre -- vocal jazz and show tune masters: Rodgers & Hart, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the album isn't the music itself at all, but the accompanying materials courtesy of National Geographic. A time-line of the major happenings in the genre, a large color map of New York's cabaret bars, composer biographies, and scattered quotations fill the CD envelope with additional bulk for the interested reader. Pick it up for a full immersion into the history and sound of Manhattan's cabaret scene.

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