Night Life Exchange New York
Spider Saloff Exudes The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee
May 1, 2018
By Marilyn Lester**** Spider Saloff is so darn appealing you just want to wrap her up and take her home. The singer is a bubbly package of entertainment perfection. She’s poised, witty, personable, smart and most of all, in possession of a glorious voice. In The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee. Saloff chose to honor a singer whose style matches her own very well. Saloff has that same smoky, purr that was attributed to Lee. But what makes the former so entertaining and appealing beyond great vocal chops is her natural enthusiasm and animation, which make for excellent story telling.
Covering Lee from cradle to grave, she rolled out an absorbing narrative with song choices that fit the text beautifully. Peggy Lee was born Nora Egstrom in rural North Dakota, soon knowing she wanted much more than life on the plains. She headed to Los Angeles, where Saloff began with a knowing, “The Best Is Yet to Come” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh). Lee’s life was intense, with lows illustrated in tunes like the blues song “Black Coffee” (Sonny Burke/Paul Francis Webster) to the heights, such as in “It’s a Good Day” (Dave Barbour/Peggy Lee); this is a song Lee wrote with her new husband in what was to be the first of four marriages, all of them ending in divorce.
Saloff has an amazing ability to get into a lyric and live it from the inside out. Her delivery of “Black Coffee” painted a picture so vivid it was easy to picture the action and mood of the song. She brings a song to life. She’s into it, and she expresses it with the dynamic energy of her whole body, When Saloff sings “I Love Being Here With You” (Bill Schluger/Peggy Lee) the sentiment is completely believable. She is, to employ an overused term—authentic.
Lee had a small film career and a bigger songwriting career. The two were combined with the songs she wrote for Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, with Sony Burke; Lee also voiced four characters in the animated film. After a few bars of “We Are Siamese,” Saloff delivered a full-bodied “He’s a Tramp” with the jazzy kind of swing that defines her as primarily a jazz singer. She also scats and gave a taste of it on “Why Don’t You Do Right?” (“Kansas Joe” McCoy), a bluesy number that made full use of her feel for jazz. In closing, and noting Lee’s death at age 81, Saloff chose “Is That All There Is?” (Jerry Lieber/Mike Stoller), a tune closely based on Thomas Mann’s short story Disillusionment. Yet, In Saloff’s hands the Lee best-seller was not so much about disappointment as it was about triumph.
Piano man, Jeremy Kahn, is a cool jazz cat and a tremendous asset to Saloff. The two are in a groove, synced to the wide-ranging moods and tempos that comprised the set. Kahn is a master of dynamics and modulation, delivering a sprightly touch on the keys where needed, to a stronger attack when drama was required. Bassist Dick Sarpola is one of the most agile of musicians, throwing hie entire body into the rhythm. His work as the sole accompanist on “Fever” (Eddie Cooley /Otis Blackwell, under the pseudonym of John Davenport) was bright and vibrant. As a trio of musicians, all are accomplished at inserting clever musical ideas into a number, which made for a splendid evening of musical story telling about the Cool Heat of Peggy Lee.
Spider Saloff, The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee, Rockwood Music Hall, April 29, 2018 at 7 PM.