Susannah McCorkle Sunday, July 30, at the Festival at Sandpoint
Jazz singer Susannah McCorkle accomplished the near-impossible Sunday evening.
When a patron underwrote McCorkle’s concert, ticket prices were waived and the show became a big family picnic with music provided.
Facing a crowd with a decidedly casual interest in jazz - judging from the number of children, this group hadn’t come prepared for serious listening - she turned her show into a lively demonstration of jazz singing styles.
McCorkle is perfectly suited for the task; her interest in jazz appears to be encyclopedic and her love for its characters inexhaustible.
She lovingly mimicked Carmen Miranda, a brilliant woman and a wonderful singer, she said, who built her image on playing dumb.
“How do you like my new outfit?” McCorkle said, sliding into character. “I think it’s a knock-down.”
She sang a lively, heavily accented and hip-swinging version of Miranda’s “Chica Chica Boom Chic.”
She sang Lambert, Hendricks and Ross’ version of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” performing all three parts in character to illustrate the complex character of that great vocal group. And she belted out a bluesy tribute to Bessie Smith, one of her early idols.
Turning to the children, McCorkle sang “If I Only Had A Heart,” the Tin Woodsman’s song from “The Wizard of Oz,” and made “The Genie’s Song” from “Aladdin” into a jazzy tour de force.
Years ago, McCorkle learned Portuguese so she could sing Brazilian jazz convincingly, and Sunday her rendition of Jobim’s “The Waters of March” sparkled with joyful vulnerability. It’s a delicate song and she handled it with a master’s touch.
McCorkle is equally effective with a ballad. Superbly backed by her own Allen Farnham Trio, she is a terrific interpreter of romantic material. Sitting on a stool at the piano, she sang the Gershwins’ “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and evoked for this listener all the moods, faces and places associated with that song.
Her rendition of Chet Baker’s “My Buddy” included a note-for-note vocal translation of a Baker trumpet solo. Her superb ear and outstanding vocal control allow her to replicate the colors and tones of Baker’s horn in her voice.
McCorkle captured her love of jazz with Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In,” transforming the gallumping old cowboy song into a swinging ode to variety, and sang with great gusto saxman Gerry Mulligan’s comic feminist turn, “Pearly Sue.”
McCorkle’s performance was marred only by a staginess learned on the cabaret stage; outdoors at Sandpoint, naturalness is a better tool.
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