2012 Bistro Award Recipients
Parker Scott and Wells Hanley
The romantic vocals of Parker Scott and the intimate stylings of Wells Hanley become one. With a voice critics have hailed as “seductive”, “clarion”, “sexy”, “glorious” and “hauntingly beautiful”, Parker Scott and pianist Wells Hanley perform a collection of songs from the Great American Songbook.
Selecting Souvenirs features songs by Richard Rodgers, Henry Mancini, John Denver, Hoagy Carmichael, Errol Garner,
Lew Spence and Cole Porter among others.
Sound Advice from www.TalkinBroadway.com
It's clear that singer Parker Scott knows the importance of being earnest. More importantly, it works for him. He does not take things lightly, especially love and songs about love. His sincerity and passion and well of feeling come through, and his devotion to old ballads of devotion sound genuinely and fully felt. Soaringly or sotte voce, vibrant or vulnerable, he sounds like he believes what he's saying and doesn't shy away from ardor. With just the accompaniment of piano, played by the talented and thoughtful Wells Hanley (the CD is billed as "an intimate conversation between singer and player"), it is a pair in tune in every sense. You can kind of hear them listening and responding to each other, phrase by phrase, such as on "The Nearness of You" and a pained but not overdosing of self-pity for "Drinking Again." Most of this CD is lovely, lovely stuff, but—gratifyingly—they mix purity and "pretty" with "pensive" so things rarely feel pat or plodding.
The album's title is a reference to a line in "Two for the Road" (Henry Mancini/ Leslie Bricusse): "We'll travel down the years/ Collecting precious memories, selecting souvenirs/ And living life the way we please." What pleases this pair seems to be to be romantic in a direct way that avoids getting sticky or confusing sentimentality with true sentiment. Old standbys that came to the public's attention in Broadway shows a couple of years apart in the 1930s, Rodgers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine" and Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine," are the two longest tracks at over five minutes, but they sustain interest. The commitment does not waver.
With all the lush and languid legato, a change of pace number breaks things up about mid-way, but—wisely—it isn't a jarring choice. Rather, it's a sweet, easygoing "breather": a winsome gem about preferring to ease through life in the slow lane, "Early to Bed" (Richard Rodney Bennett/ Franklin Underwood, with a brief quote from "Ain't Misbehavin'"). A particularly effective highlight is "You Are Here," an emotional yet elegant piece written by Anthony Gaglione and Parker's director and CD co-producer, Gerry Geddes.
Singer-actor-vocal coach Parker Scott's eclectic performing background includes a production wherein he sang from the late John Denver's repertoire. He's a natural fit for the two such souvenirs selected here for open-hearted, gratitude-filled statements: "Sunshine on My Shoulders" and "Annie's Song" (with its euphoric declaration, "You fill up my senses ..."). Wells Hanley has a cerebral sensibility, like the singer, whom he knows how to spotlight and urge on when things might be in danger of veering into murky navel-gazing. Stick with this CD, even if the outpouring of heart seems like it will border on somber, sticky or stuck in low gear or feel like heavy going at first. There are moments where nuance or a sense of relaxation may be wanted instead, sometimes when an "S" sound doesn't sound quite right, but I suspect they'll win over many listeners.
The Scott/Hanley/Geddes triumvirate returns to New York cabaret at Don't Tell Mama, with this Saturday being the first for the new year. As I learned from attending a recent performance, these performances can be especially riveting and focused in person. Much comes through on this CD, a second release after some years away from cabaret and the recording studio. Welcome back.
- Rob Lester - Sound Advice at www.TalkinBroadway.com