All is not wrong with the world while there is Steve Ross holding forth as an oasis of civilized, urbane musical entertainment in one of his long-time haunts, the Oak Room at the Algonquin hotel. Ross has been appearing in the iconic room over a 30-year-period. When he takes his seat at the piano and launches into his vast American Songbook repertoire, he creates a sublime aura dispensing his one-of-a-kind musicality. Ross is a master interpreter of lyrics and charms with a jaunty style that he could patent. There is also the intimacy he creates, as if you were in his living room or he in yours.
The theme this time around is “Rhythm and Romance,” and wit intact, he reminds the audience that the rhythm referred to here has no relation to birth control methods. As for the romance part, he notes that there is a broad range of different types of romance, whether fueled by lust or wistful musings upon the end of one. He then delivers a generous program of illustrative songs that run the gamut, and gets a valuable assist from Brian Cassier on bass.
There is the attempted seduction reflected in “Have Some Madeira, M’Dear" (Flanders and Swann), and there is the very different “We’re Gonna Be Alright” from the Sondheim-Rodgers “Do I Hear a Waltz?” He is as at home with the upbeat “The Glory of Love” (Billy Hill) as with the pensive “Down in the Depths” (Cole Porter). Porter is a long-time favorite of Ross, who also does justice to “Just One of Those Things.”
He also is enamored of Noël Coward and Rodgers and Hart, and as always, Ross is an expert at interpreting their work. It is also bracing when he delivers a song laced with humor, as he does with “And Her Mother Came Too” (Dion Titheradge and Ivor Novello).
Ross mentions that when he first came to New York he was impressed by hearing the very different sort of music by Jacques Brel, and he follows by singing “Fanette.” He also plays a lovely medley of the songs made famous by Edith Piaf. A grateful audience calls him back for more, and he encores perfectly and appropriately with the Rodgers-Hart “My Romance.”
Ross will be serving his dependably delightful program through February 12, 2011. At the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street. Reservations: 212-419-9331 or firstname.lastname@example.org