Who better than Marilyn Maye to represent Jazz at Lincoln Center’s series called Generations in Jazz? She truly has fans of every generation and she teaches ’em all, too, in her master classes in between engagements. Her current gig is at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola inside Jazz at Lincoln Center’s kingdom in the Time Warner Building in Columbus Circle for multiple sets on September 16, 17, and 18.
I asked her what she was going to sing there and she said, “Oh, you know, lots of the stuff I never get to sing other times.” Marilyn loves her jazz and is especially “jazzed” about appearing in this intimate club setting named after jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie. You might say she’s dizzy with excitement. “I think the whole world should be set to a jazz waltz,” remarked the lady who loves that particular tempo. She appeared in the complex a while back on a program with Michael Feinstein, with whom she also just recently shared the stage at the eponymous Feinstein’s/54 Below. (She’ll also be back as part of the annual Cabaret Convention in October, natch.) “Oh, we’re going to have fun! Do come!” she enthused.
Her instrumental partners are, as Cole Porter would say, “the top”: pianist Tedd Firth, bassist Tom Hubbard, drummer Eric Halvorson, and guitarist Rod Fleeman. The first three have often been part of her back-up, but she’s happy to have a guitarist added and wouldn’t spare the Rod to spoil the child-like glee she feels about working with one more cool jazz cat. And Marilyn is the cats’ meow, earning the purring praise of cats and jammers alike, as well as being the critics’ darling and beloved audience favorite, earning award after Lifetime Achievement Award in her current lifetime into which she’s packed more than a couple of lifetimes of achievements. She’s played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the inn at thew resort at Lake Okojobi (Look it up) where she performed every summer for decades. She’s shared the stage with jazz masters from Charlie Parker to Count Basie and, not long ago with Bucky Pizzarelli at the Iridium on Broadway.
Miss Maye, whose jazzier selections in cabaret shows have included such items as “Take Five,” believes that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that zing and, always dressed to sparkle almost as much as her way with a musical gem, might say it don’t mean a thing if one ain’t got that bling. But the dazzler is so much more than the flash that makes a splash, as she is a purebred jazz-influenced singer who makes the trickier zippy stuff and embellishments and improvisations always accessible to those who only dip a few toes in the wading pool area of the jazz pool. Like Snow White’s band of merry men, the seven dwarves who worked in a diamond mine, she and her own merry men will “dig, dig, dig, dig…” (It’s not often I reach back to the verse of the Snow White song “Heigh Ho” for an analogy, but everything else has been written to compare the diamond-like work of Maye to prize-worthy work.) But, for the show biz veteran who deserves her own kind of peacetime Veterans Day holiday named in her honor as Maye Day, it’s her job and “Heigh-Ho, Heigh Ho,” it’s off to work she’ll go, this time at Time Warner Center’s J@LC’s Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.
All the photos shown here are from the many taken of Miss Maye by Russ Weatherford, the late and much-missed photographer and occasional writer for this website whom I brought to his first full-scale Maye show, and I remember how he turned to me, with tears in his eyes, and said she had the communicative power to heal people’s sorrows and fears through her talent.