This past year, Jesse Gelber & Kate Manning met, fell in love, and like so many young couples, started their own vaudeville act. Billed as “the latest musical gaiety” and “a musical cocktail of fizz, fun and frolic,” the troupe has since been performing at venues throughout New York City and Brooklyn, including The Triad, Café Steinhof, Banjo Jim’s, The Reprise Room at Dillon’s and Rodeo Bar. Jesse, a formidable stride pianist in New York’s traditional jazz scene and Kate, a veteran of Broadway and national touring musical comedies allied themselves where their two worlds met – in “raggy time.” The result is an act that combines musical improvisation with theatricality and showmanship. Traveling back to the vaudeville era in search of material, Jesse and Kate became the feuding lovers Gelber & Manning: the cantankerous barroom ivory tickler and the sweet singer who dotes persistently on her beau. Along for the ride are Charlie Caranicas on cornet and Kevin Dorn on drums, jazz musicians at the top of their field who just want to play some good music.
"Gelber and Manning have a quality that is rare in performers who mine the treasurable songs from that glorious period of the teens and early Twenties: that quality is authenticity. The songs they've chosen are early classics from the American Songbook - they seem to have been with us forever but we mustn't forget that they were the popular hits of the day and Jesse and Kate bring them buoyantly to life. The former's swinging accuracy is absolutely in the style of the great ragtime and stride artistes of the day such as James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake while Kate is a powerhouse of energy and tenderness whose vocalism recalls Sophie Tucker, Judy Garland and yes, Al Jolson but whose musicality and heart shine through every note she sings."
“Energetic, often riotous! The four members of this troupe were so versatile and so musical that the presentation was over too soon. There were vaudeville jokes so ancient that they were new. Manning has a huge, beautifully-modulated voice. She can shout, mug, and belt with energy and swing. Gelber, a percussive wit, likes rapid-fire right hand keyboard patterns and left hand stomps. Drummer Kevin Dorn swings hard, and his solos are exuberant yet melodic. Trumpeter Charlie Caranicas goes from lovely obligatos to being a whole trumpet section. I hope that Gelber and Manning get to go (or goes?) public again and soon.”
--Michael Steinman, Jazz Improv