I’ve Got Your Number
The songs of Cy Coleman, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Dorothy Fields, Peggy Lee, Joseph McCarthy, Floyd Huddleston, Bill Schluger, and Ira Gasman
Billy Stritch (singer & pianist) and Dave Olney (bass)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 15 October, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Cy Coleman, who died in 2004, was a friend and mentor to the gifted jazz-pianist and vocalist Billy Stritch, who has a particular affinity for Coleman‘s music, which he feels is more jazz influenced than that of other Broadway writers. Stritch now brings us his new programme devoted to Coleman, which he opens with ‘The best is yet to come’, a prophetic title as the song heralds a splendid selection of Coleman melodies, several of them little-known titles with which it is a pleasure to become acquainted. Coleman had his share of Broadway successes, including Sweet Charity, Little Me, and City of Angels, but Stritch puts the emphasis on the songs that were written independently, blending hits with unfamiliar gems like ‘The rules of the road’ and ‘Let me down gently’.
The show is also a tribute to the lyricists who worked with Coleman, including Peggy Lee (‘I’m in love again’ – not to be confused with the Cole Porter standard – and ‘That’s my style’), Joseph McCarthy (‘Paris is my old Kentucky home’ and ‘I’m gonna laugh you right out of my life’) and in particular Carolyn Leigh, who wrote so many witty and clever lyrics, often amusing with their playful puns and sly internal rhymes. She wrote both ‘When in Rome’, recorded by Lee, and ‘Witchcraft’, a success for Frank Sinatra, and her tender aspects are apparent in the heartbreaking ’Let me down gently’ and the song that Stritch cites as his favourite, ‘It amazes me’, which was included on Liza Minnelli’s first album, and also featured strongly in the repertoires of Mabel Mercer and Bobby Short.
The inimitable Dorothy Fields also collaborated with Coleman. One of the numbers she wrote with him was the wistful hymn to aspiration, ‘Baby, dream your dream’ from Sweet Charity. Stritch’s superb interpretation of Fields’s fine lyrics and Coleman’s rapturous melody prompt one to wonder why the song has not become a standard. When he plunders the Broadway catalogue, Stritch rarely selects the best-known titles – from Wildcat, the musical that starred a thin-voiced Lucille Ball introducing ‘Hey, look me over’, he pleases with the evocative ‘Tall hope’, and from Little Me he sings the heroine’s rousing declaration of her ambitions, ‘The other side of the tracks’, as well as the more-familiar song that gives the evening its title.
Coleman wrote the lyrics himself for the touching ballad, ‘Sometimes when you’re lonely’, and Stritch features one song from Coleman’s final Broadway musical, The Life (to lyrics by Ira Gasman). A show about the lives of a group of prostitutes, it failed to find an audience. Stritch, who plays a fine piano, warbles all of Coleman’s numbers, tough, tender or playful (one should mention Coleman and Leigh’s ‘You fascinate me so’ as a playful example), with delightful aplomb and commendable clarity to the lyrics, He is given notable support by bassist Dave Olney, who shines in occasional solos to complete an evening of pure delight.
- Billy Stritch is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 19 October 2013
- Bookings 020 7734 4888