My first time in the legendary Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, was not my first time seeing the handsomely talented, velvet voiced, Johnny Rodgers perform. I was first stricken by the Johnny Rodgers Band when they seized the stage at the 2010 Nitelife Awards and captured my musical heart with his piano bench breaking rendition of "Birth of the Blues." Last night’s opening of the Johnny Rodgers Band’s three week run at the Oak Room, proved to be just as powerful as it could be, beginning the evening with "Take Another Chance on Love," an original composition paying homage to the jazz legends of old.
Continuing the much too short hour long set with songs ranging from Johnny Mercer’s "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home" to Carol Hall’s "Change In Me" (to my excitement, Ms. Hall was in attendance), Mr. Rodgers enhanced the evening by interlacing his own songs among the greats of the American Songbook. We were treated to "Home to Mendocino," "She," "One More Moment" (co-written with Lina Koutrakos and winner of the Great American Song Award), and "The Best of You In Me" (co-written with Richard Barone), which Mr. Rodgers dedicated to his parents.
I must also mention the B of the JRB: Brian Glassman, bass, Danny Mallon, drums, and Joe Ravo, guitar. These musicians, each one capable of being a headliner, add more than backup music, they add atmosphere. The interaction of the band with each other while was performing was perfect, and they have the greatest rapport with each other with the smiles, looks of encouragement and the nod acknowledging a great solo or riff. It was truly a pleasure to watch.
Mark Waldrop did an outstanding job directing this show. Having Mr. Rodgers alternate between sitting at the keyboard and standing in front of the audience was comfortable and did not seem at all forced. Chris Blood’s sound and lighting were a perfect fit, setting just the right mood for the oddly shaped room.
The evening concluded with two encores, my favorite, the rocking blues classic, "Birth of the Blues" (sans the piano bench breaking) and an another original song, a sweet ballad, "Sweet Georgia Smile." I am almost certain that had Mr. Rodgers come back to the stage again, there could have been an unending night of encores.
I would advise you to catch Johnny Rodgers – What A Wonderful World now, as the Johnny Rodgers Band has been selected by Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, for the renowned Rhythm Road tour and departs in November to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
A gifted songwriter, Mr. Rodgers won ASCAP’s Jamie deRoy & Friends Foundation Award in 2009, The New York Sheet Music Society’s Gerald Marks Award and the Songwriters Hall of Fame Abe Oldman Award. Other honors include the Nightlife Outstanding Cabaret Vocalist Award 2010, the Back Stage Bistro Award and the MAC Award. Mr. Rodgers recently made his Broadway debut, co-starring in the Tony Award winning Liza’s At The Palace with Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award winning superstar Liza Minnelli. His recently released CD, Box of Photographs (PS Classics), has won acclaim from critics and radio stations across the country.
Johnny Rodgers What A Wonderful World continues at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel thru May 29, 2010. Shows are Tuesday-Thursday at 8:30pm and Friday and Saturday at 8:30 pm and 11pm.
There is a $50 cover charge per person ($25 for late shows Friday and Saturday) plus either a $30 food and beverage minimum per person or a $60 prix fixe dinner.
For reservations or more information, call (212)419-9331.