|The Art of Entertainment
Jeanie Brandes — Cinegrill — Tuesday, July 19
by Cathy Thompson-Georges
Looking for the ambiance of '40s supper-club vocal jazz? Jeanie Brandes is your woman, with all the virtues and limitations that definition suggests.
Brandes' recent turn at the Cinegrill incorporated both standards and original material; although her song writing is strictly in the tin-pin alley vein, which ensues that her tunes mesh well into the show, they tend to be upstaged by classics like "Old Black Magic" or "All the Things You Are."
Brandes' vocals and arrangements are in high old-fashioned style, when it works, it's charmingly authentic. She does the sort of cabaret you would imagine from Dinah Washington or Patti Page.
Basically, however, Brandes' cabaret sensibility is good, and her voice is perfect for the material. She's a highly trained singer- even a little opera, she claims- and it definitely shows in performance. If she doesn't have the raw belting power of a Sarah Vaughn (not many do, of course), she does have a lovely thick quality on her sustained notes and an impressive vocal range.
Brandes' solid backing trio helped keep the cheese factor to a minimum. The combo of baby grand, acoustic bass and sax ensued an organic, authentic sound that singers backed by keyboard or (god forbid) electric organ can't attain. And although they got little solo time, except for a jam near the end of the set, they were clearly accomplished players.
If the low point of the show was a rendition of the recent but already stale chestnut "Wind Beneath my Wings," the high point was unquestionably the little-known Stephen Sondheim rune, "I Remember Sky," which left chills running down the spine. I suppose this doesn't prove much except that singers are only as good as their material. At any rate, Brandes successfully channels the sensibility of a smoky white-tablecloth nightclub act into the smoke-free, postmodern present.