On the surface one wouldn’t associate the dynamic style of singer Clint Holmes with the laid back, ultra sophisticated style of the late Bobby Short, who died in 2005 after spending more than 35 years as the iconic entertainer at the Café Carlyle. But Holmes reveres Short and his legacy, and accordingly, is doing a “Remembering Bobby Short” show at the Café Carlyle (October 11-29, 2011). Wisely, he doesn’t attempt to impersonate Short, whose recorded rendition of “Our Love Is Here to Stay” introduces the show, but honors him by turning on the heat in his own fashion and providing a rousing, exciting tribute.
Holmes is a dynamic entertainer who knows how to ignite and please a crowd as he puts his own spin on songs Short did, as well as interjecting some welcome historical information. The package makes for a solid, enjoyable evening that in effect is a double treat—reminiscence about Bobby Short and the explosive singing talent of Holmes.
Any recollection of Short will inevitably include a good bit of Cole Porter. When Holmes enthusiastically sings Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York,” it becomes a biographical ode for both men, who gravitated to the Big Apple. His treatment of Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” comes closest to the style one associates with Short, as is also the case with Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”
Early in the show we get pure Holmes with his plunging into “Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer”) by Wesley Wilson, followed by Holmes doing some playful steps to ”Truckin’” by Ted Keebler and Rube Bloom. Holmes joked about his nerve trying to dance facing Chita Rivera sitting at a front table on opening night.
The musicality was pumped up when, in addition to the basic trio of Jeffrey Neiman as musical director and pianist, Jay Leonhart on bass and Sherrie Maricle on drums, Holmes brought on a wind section of John Eckert on trumpet, Mike Christianson on trombone and Patience Higgiins on saxophone. The brass works especially well for “Satin Doll” (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills and Mitchell Parish), and Porter’s “Just One of Those Things.”
There’s plenty of variety in the selections, including, for example, “Guess Who’s in Town;” “Tea for Two” (sung very slowly); “Isn’t it Romantic” (sung very romantically); “I’ve Got You Under My Skin;” “Night and Day;” “Autumn in New York;” “Autumn Leaves” and “You’re the Top.”
Holmes also takes a crack at Sondheim with the demanding “Losing My Mind” and he uses his sense of humor to advantage, having fun with “Charlie,” Bobby Short’s internationally played Revlon perfume commercial, and the whimsical “And Her Mother Came, Too” by Ivor Novello.
Affability is a quality Holmes exhibits plenty of, and blended with his strong voice, he makes his performance seem easy and natural even though he is working hard virtually every minute on stage. The time seems to fly by energized by Holmes’s enthusiasm, including when he turns the spotlight on Neiman for one of his raging piano solos.
It’s a power-packed evening during which Short gets his well-deserved accolades from an unabashed fan. At the Café Carlyle, The Carlyle Hotel 35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue). Reservations: 212-744-1600.