Excerpted from the album liner notes by Wilfrid Sheed.
Towards the end of this exhilarating album, Chris Gillespie breaks into Bart Howard s classic, Fly Me to the Moon, and one realizes with a shock that we ve already been there. Because, ... Gillespie has taken us on the whole love-trip, to the moon and back, as artfully as it can be done.
Under Bobby (Short), the Carlyle became the big leagues of cabaret, the equivalent of playing the Palace and vaudeville. And under Gillespie it still is. ... he plays and sings in a contemplative style that makes the American standards sound like newfound treasure and a passport to paradise. ... and incidentally the best evening of cabaret that I have ever spent entirely at home.
Wilfrid Sheed, noted author of The House That George Built (the golden age of the American Songbook), literary critic and novelist, won a 1987 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes on Frank Sinatra's The Voice . Chris Gillespie is accompanied by Vito Leszcak on drums; Keith Loftis(toured with Ray Charles)on Sax; and Frank Tate (who was Bobby Short's Bass player for 10 years) on Bass.
Chris Gillespie Live At The Carlyle
If you are of a certain age, odds are good that you saw Bobby Short sing at the Carlyle Hotel.
I did. It was a necessary part of my New York education, signifying that I was no longer Craven Youth, with the beer and the pot and the hippie hair. Showing up at The Carlyle bar --- in regulation blazer and tie, my date more familiar with Calvin than Couture --- testified that I knew how to open a door for a woman, order a grown-up drink, plot a seduction that ruffled no feathers along the way. And how simple it was to do that: Just join the out-of-towners, the December lovers, the tragic drunks and the devotees of the Great American Songbook as they paid homage to Bobby Short, the master of the sophisticated song.
Since Short's death in 2005, Chris Gillespie has filled much of the gap. Tall, suave and exotic --- his father is Dutch, his mother Tasmanian --- he was born and raised in Munich, where he was classically trained. And then he made the fateful decision to cast his lot with Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jimmy van Heusen, Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz.
On the surface, Chris Gillespie is the Terminator of saloon singers. He's got a decisive piano style; long ago, he seemed, he banished all offensive unnecessary touches. His voice is smoother than the most expensive liquor at the Carlyle bar. If this live CD is any indication, patter is --- mercifully --- not his thing. And he has exquisite taste in sidemen: Vito Lesczak (drums), Keith Loftis (sax) and, on bass, Frank Tate, who accompanied Bobby Short for a decade.
Which is not to say that Chris Gillespie is channeling Short --- or anyone. He's far too witty. “Live at the Carlyle” begins with a song about a man and woman getting to know one another. But we're not far into “How About You?” before he departs from the melody to do a bit of flirting of his own --- his piano slips into “New York, New York” and then slides into “Rhapsody in Blue.” He even goofs on the lyrics, but justthismuch.
That first song is a warning. This may be music that you listen to because it's comfortable and familiar, but when Chris Gillespie is on stage it still demands close listening. So “Alone Together” begins as if the song will be pounding rock and roll, but the Dietz-Schwartz tune quickly moves into a South American beat. And in case you thought that Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond owned their signature song, Gillespie shows how well “Take Five” and Bach get along.
I haven't been to hear music at the Carlyle in decades; I'm way past needing to prove my adulthood with a knowing nod after a piano solo. But the eleven songs on Chris Gillespie's CD make me rethink that. I know: It isn't rock and roll. But I like it.
-- by Jesse Kornbluth, for HeadButler.com
I have been travelling from Chicago to New York over the last few years just to hear Chris Gillespie and now there is a CD. I love it! I have a front row seat, the sound is pure and clean, and I feel the energy of a live show. The ballads are dreamy and take their time with sweet piano and sax riffs that drift in and out. His twist on the old standards (In the Still of the Night, How About You?) are magical. I want more.
--Tim Peterson (Chicago IL)
I loved the way Chris Gillespie puts his intimate touch on the American Standards. I felt I was right there at the Carlyle, sipping a single malt, watching the tiny flames swing to the music, with Chris smiling and looking right over the piano at me. But Beautiful is haunting and simple. Take Five like a walk down Greenwich street after a warm rain. Here's to Life; an ache, a heartbreak.
Nothing beats listening to Chris play live or on this "jam" packed CD. His arrangements have depth and reflect Chris's extensive musical experience. I loved Bobby Short and Chris too is incredible. My advice is simple: Buy this CD. Then watch out for this awesome talent!
Smokin' Cool: The Phenomenal Chris Gillespie, February 1, 2008
By Paul J. Browne (New York)
If budget or geography stops you from sliding into a comfortable corner of the venerable hotel, the phenomenal Chris Gillespie's "Live at the Carlyle" is the next best thing to being there. With a hint of smoke and oak at the edges of his extraordinary voice, Gillespie seductively transports listeners to the "glad just to be sad" environs of standards Americana. His plaintive enunciation of each syllable of inquiry to a love lost in Gillespie's killer version of "What's New" sets the bar high indeed for anyone who tries it next. Is there any "Take Five" better than the Brubeck original? Just maybe. Remember the "Master of the House" afflicted brain of Seinfeld's sidekick George? Gillespie's interpretation of "Take Five" and other masterpieces are so dangerously good that the CD should carry a warning: You can't get him out of your head.