If you don’t have a calendar you can still tell it is the holiday season because Steve Tyrell is back at the Café Carlyle. This is his eighth year of holiday entertaining at the noted supper club (November 27-December 31). And that means the place is jumping. On opening night Tyrell breezed in with his new program “Christmas at the Carlyle: The Songs of Sammy Cahn.” Those familiar with Tyrell know that he is a prime entertainer who puts on a spirited, audience-friendly show that flashes his personality as well as his ability to put over a song.
The opening was a full-house affair with a dash of audience glitter. Joan Collins, looking great, drew gazes and picture-taking as she entered the room. Regis Philbin was on hand. So were Sue Simmons and actress-singer Karen Mason. Apart from the celebrities, just plain followers of Tyrell also graced the room and showed their enthusiasm with loud and repeated applause.
Tyrell, dapper as usual, praised the work of Sammy Cahn and pointed out that the lyricist would have been 100 years old in 2013. "We’re starting the party early,” he said, and indeed it was a party atmosphere, enhanced by the sizable band for the intimate room—musical director and pianist Quinn Johnson; Bob Mann, guitar; Ed Howard, bass; Kevin Winard, drums; Lew Soloff, trumpet; David Mann, sax and flute and Jon Allen, keyboards. The band provided strong background power to Tyrell, plus some sharp solo stints.
Tyrell got the holidays out of the way at the start, jauntily singing the Cahn-Jule Styne “Let it Snow,” and then doing a turnabout with the moody Cahn-David Holt “Christmas Blues.”
Cahn's amazing body of work affords Tyrell the opportunity for what he does best, providing finger-snapping beats and charm dispensing. Tyrell soared with such numbers as “It’s Crazy” “Come Fly With Me,” “It’s Magic,” "Teach Me Tonight?” and “Tender Trap,” the latter concluded with Tyrell’s finger-pointing at the audience and playfully warning guys to beware.
Tyrell loves to tell stories about songs, as he did with the Cahn-Jimmy Van Huesen “Call Me Irresponsible,” originally intended for Fred Astaire to sing in a movie. But the project was scrapped despite praise for the number. It was a long, convoluted tale. “Do you want to hear more?” Tyrell asked, and the audience provided a big yes, so he kept going, leading up to his finally singing the catchy “Call Me Irresponsible.”
I enjoyed his interpretation of “Kick in the Head,” and “Saturday Night.” He explained the origin of “Long, Long Time” as the result of Cahn being asked to write lyrics that would express the feelings of soldiers coming home from World War II.
Tyrell probably could have gone on singing all night, given the applause urging encores. Finally calling it quits, he noted that he was at the Carlyle through December. “Come back again,” he coaxed, and obviously referring to the age of the songs, added “and bring your parents!” That got a hefty laugh. At the Café Carlyle, Hotel Carlyle, Madison Avnue at 76th Street. www.thecarlyle.com. Review posted November 28, 2012.