3/23/2005|||111151039857926479||||||
BOBBY SHORT - END OF AN ERA

That sublime singer-pianist Bobby Short,
who died on Monday, was synonymous with the Upper East Side swank spot, the Café Carlyle. (If you've seen "Hannah and Her Sisters", you'll recall Woody Allen's disastrous efforts to introduce Dianne West to Short's Cole Porter repertoire. Sadly, she's much more interested in thrash metal and coke.)

One of my happiest New York memories, though, was seeing Short sneak downtown to the Village Vanguard to play a set at the club's 60th anniversary celebrations. (Dick Gregory also turned up to rekindle the venue’s connections with stand-up.) It was a glorious show, and I’ll never forget the surprised laughter from some of the hip young listeners when they heard “what street” rhyme with “Mott Street” during Short’s rendition of “Manhattan” . It’s an old, old Rodgets & Hart song, of course, but they clearly hadn’t heard it before. Which was one reason why Short was such a treasure; dapper and droll, he was one of the last links with a classic era of American music. (The Vanguard set was also a reminder that, for all his dandy-ish persona, he was a terrific pianist too.) Some people never warmed to his slightly hoarse baritone, and jazzers tended to look down their noses at him. But if you listen to one of his latter-day small-group albums "Songs of New York"
there’s no question that he can swing with the best of them.

Plenty of tributes in the press. Stephen Holden
pays homage in the New York Times, while the Daily Telegraph obit captures the personality of the small-town boy who turned himself into the ultra-sophisticate:

Because his career was a fantastic feat of self-invention, it is little wonder that the predominant spirit he conveyed was a childlike awe and pleasure at living the high life. As the years piled up and he suffered from debilitating ailments that made walking increasingly difficult in his final years, he concealed his discomfort. Each performance became an act of self-transformation in which he threw off his troubles. Every time he sang Razaf and J. C. Johnson's racy announcement, "Guess Who's in Town," he conveyed the exuberance of someone who had just breezed into the room to give the party a lift.

There’s also a fine piece by musician Eric Felten in the Journal (subscriber-only):

In "Hannah and Her Sisters," Woody Allen's punk-addled date just doesn't get it. On the sidewalk outside the Carlyle, Mr. Allen berates her: "You don't deserve Cole Porter." One suspects that Bobby Short would have disagreed. With his elegant egalitarianism, Mr. Short treated everyone as though they deserved Cole Porter. And that was the most gracious gesture of all.

IT WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED AT ONE OF HIS GIGS

No, I don't think anyone ever fired a gun at the Carlyle. Guardian critic Caroline Sullivan seems surprised to hear bullets fly at a rap concert in London:

Another member of the group I was with shouted "We're going right now!" and we joined the surge - though, really, we had little choice. The options were to be swept along or to stand your ground and be crushed by what were now scores of people, desperate to flee whoever was standing in the middle of the hall, calmly firing a gun. It's hard to tell what was more frightening: the thought that the "gunman" (who ever uses that word in real life?) was only yards away, or the prospect of being trampled in the bottleneck created by waves of punters as they forced their way to the door.

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/03/bobby-short-end-of-era-that-sublime.html|||3/23/2005 10:35:00 am|||||||||
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