Love is definitely in the air at the Café Carlyle with Clint Holmes examining one of the world’s durable topics in his show called “This Thing Called Love, Cole Porter & Paul Simon” (April 10-28, 2012). Holmes is surveying the songs of the disparate Porter and Simon styles and sees a thematic and poetic connection. In the end, of course, Holmes makes the work of both decidedly his own with his explosive interpretations and the passion he pours into everything. As an entertainer, he knows how to power a room, and on opening night the Café Carlyle was jammed with celebrities. Although noting that he was awed by the turnout, he wisely refrained from introducing the renowned, saying merely, “You know who you are.”
The last time around in the venue Holmes celebrated Bobby Short, who inspired him. Short’s style was laid back, but Holmes took the numbers associated with the late singer-pianist and whipped them up in his own fashion. That’s what he does here with Porter and Simon, and fortunately, there is no desecration involved. To the contrary, he gets new mileage out of the material in a manner that is sheer fun, especially with the zest that he brings to the stage, with the backing of a lively six-person band. The effect is some musical hell-raising.
The band includes Jeffrey Neiman, musical director and pianist; Steve Bescrone, bass; Greg Utzig, guitar; Sherrie Maricle, drums; Ritchie Rodriguez, percussion, and Kenny Gioffre, saxaphone. The show has been directed by Larry Moss and created and produced by Cecilia Joyce Johnson.
Holmes cleverly frames the presentation as a mythical conversation between the composers. “Cole Porter and Paul Simon walk into a bar,” he says. His repertoire includes putting his own spin on “Let’s Do It” (Porter) and “Feelin’ Groovy” (Simon). His rendition of Simon”s “Loves Me Like a Rock” is fast and intense in contrast to the languid, leisurely manner applied to Porter’s “It’s De-Lovely.” On the other hand, he delivers “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Porter) with rhythmic bounce.
The contrasts he employs keeps the show exciting. He can work up to frenzy with Porter’s “Night and Day,” and then serve a very mellow “I Do It for Your Love” (Simon). His “Slip Slidin' Away” (Simon) is hot and loud. Throughout there is Holmes’ trademark affability, and accordingly he mingles with the audience when he sings Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me.”
You get the picture. The singer includes such appealing selections as Porter’s “Get Out of Town” and Simon’s advice-dispensing “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Still Crazy After All These Years.” His encore number is Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which he renders with beauty and passion. In carrying out his “walked into a bar” concept, he imagines Porter bidding goodbye to Simon by saying their evening together was “delightful, delirious--and depressing.”
One might also say it was original, this teaming of Porter and Simon filtered through the particular talent of Clint Holmes, a most enjoyable threesome. Reviewed at the Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue. Phone: 212-744-1600.