Sketches of Broadway

Janis Siegel

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Sketches of Broadway Review

by Jonathan Widran

The acclaimed Manhattan Transfer vocalist has always been the one member of the legendary, multiple-Grammy winning group who has been most willing to explore deeper artistic leanings on her solo projects. Here, she offers a restrained counterpoint to Barbra Streisand's more dramatic approach to classics from our favorite musicals, succeeding mostly by picking lesser-known tunes that haven't worn out their welcomes, and interacting with a stellar jazz cast and the witty arrangements of Gil Goldstein. On the opening track, "Show Me," her vocals glide soulfully over John Patitucci's bass and Stefon Harris' vibes before the pace picks up, Siegel's phrasing ebbs and flows beautifully and wildly, and the story becomes a little more energetic with its telling. Transfer fans don't have to wait long for their diva to harmonize, this time with herself on the subtle vocal textures in spots on the softhearted, mystical arrangement of "Sorry Grateful" (from Sondheim's Company. . .In Jazz). That vibe of mystery continues on Arlen and Mercer's provocative "It's a Woman's Prerogative," which again allows ample space for Siegel to explore the deeper emotional subtleties. Harris' vibes are purely hypnotic here. Siegel clearly loves telling stories even the hardcore Broadway fan is less familiar with, reminding us of musicals like Follies ("The Story of Lucy and Jessie") and The Littlest Revue ("Born Too Late"), all of which allow her to be equally goofy, poignant, and ironic. The showstopper "Sun in the Morning" finds Siegel fully engaged over a heavier Antonio Sanchez drumbeat and the rock-edged guitar of Romero Lubambo. All of this only scratches the surface of the tremendously rich artistry Siegel demonstrates here as she mines classics and obscure songs that touch both her heart and wit. Hopefully, she, like Streisand, will come back to Broadway in the future.

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