DC at Night

DC at Night

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Covering Randy Newman in a Jazzy Way

I have always preferred the live performance of songs over their recorded counterparts. I think artists covering the tunes of others often make the new versions more interesting than the originals. I am a huge fan of singer-songwriter Randy Newman. And I'm trying to expand my exposure to jazz.

That's why I was so eager to see New Jersey jazz singer Roseanna Vitro on her The Randy Newman Project tour last weekend at the KC Jazz Club at the Kennedy Center.

The tour is titled after Vitro's last CD, on which she performed jazz versions of 10 of her favorite Newman songs.  She was joined by  her long time accompanists drummer Tim Horner and bassist Dean Johnson; keyboardist Mark Soskin, who arranged many of the live Newman tunes; and violinist extraordinaire Sara Caswell, whose incredible leads provided a dynamic counterpoint to Vitror's vocals.

Vitro opened her 90-minute set with "Baltimore," which just happens to be my favorite song and has been performed for years by singer Nina Simone. In stark, simple lyrics with a haunting melody, "Baltimore" tells the story of the sad fall of a once vibrant city. Vitro prefaced the song with dialogue about the effects of Hurricane Sandy. She said she had escaped damage, but was still without power. After dedicating the entire night to those suffering from the storm and its aftereffects, she jokingly thanked the Kennedy Center for bringing the entire band to Washington, D.C. a day early so they could get showers and sleep in warm beds.

A second highlight of the night was a medley of 2 of Newman's best known songs, "Short People" and "You Can Leave Your Hat On." Vitro told the audience that the medley didn't appear on the CD, but the band liked the way the songs worked on stage. The crowd also appeared to enjoy Vitro's version of Newman's "Mama Told Me Not to Come," which was a hit for the chart-topping rock group Three Dog Night.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
A musical performance should be personally experienced, not written about. Click here to see and hear Vitro and her quartet perform songs from the Newman CD. You can click here to see Randy Newman performing some of his tunes.

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