When watching singer Steve Tyrell turn on the charm as he performs, I always get a kick seeing various women in the audience grinning, their heads bobbing enthusiastically along with the music. Some of the men do some finger-snapping, but Tyrell has that seductive appeal to the ladies. He permeates the room with a sense of style and fun, as if he is having a good time and wants his audience to share in the pleasure. That was once again the scene when I caught his latest stint at the Café Carlyle (May 7-18), with his current program, “It’ Magic: The Songs of Sammy Cahn.” No surprise, it is also the title of Tyrell’s new album.
Tyrell looked sharp and relaxed and, as is custom, told assorted anecdotes in introducing some of the songs for which Cahn had written the lyrics. Before singing ”Come Rain or Come Shine,” he told of being in a New Jersey club when someone tough looking came up and pressed $100 in his hand and said “the boss” would like him to sing. Tyrell recounted that when he drew back, the man pressed more money into his hand and stressed again that “the boss” wanted him to sing. Tyrell inquired whether he should sing “Come Rain or Come Shine," the emissary of “the boss” replied, “You’d better sing both of them.”
Tyrell pointed out that Cahn would have been 100 years old this year, and it would have been the same for his collaborator Jimmy Van Heusen on “The Tender Trap,” which he delivered with typical gusto. He noted before singing “Call Me Irresponsible,” that Cahn had said it was his favorite.
The last song for which Cahn wrote the lyrics, noted Tyrell, was “It’s Crazy” (written with Arthur Butler), which lay dormant for years. As then sung by Tyrell, one wondered why it took so long. Going over a bit of music history, Tyrell noted that Cahn was right in tune with the mood epitomized during the days of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and as an example, he delivered a jaunty version of “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” He also amusingly described Cahn as a little guy who looked as if he had come to do the books, but was able to produce some of the greatest collection of lyrics in the past century.
Other Tyrell treats included his renditions of “Look of Love;” “Anything But Love;“ “Come Fly with Me” (Looking at a woman in the audience he added, “Don’t tell mother where we’re going”); “It’s Magic;” “Teach Me Tonight;” "It's Been a Long, Long Time” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily.”
Trumpeter Lew Soloff delivered some nifty solos, adding to the impact of the band backing up the star. It includes Quinn Johnson, piano and musical direction; David Finck, bass; Bob Mann, guitar; Kevin Winard, drums and Jon Allen, keyboard.
At the Café Carlyle, 35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue). www.theCarlyle.com. Reviewed May 9, 2013.