Live at the Café Carlyle

Live at the Café Carlyle

by Bobby Short


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After springing for three double-LP songbook albums in three years devoted to Cole Porter, Noël Coward, and George Gershwin, Atlantic Records tracked Bobby Short to his lair for a fourth two-disc collection in December 1973, setting up recording equipment in the tiny confines of the Cafe Carlyle where Short had maintained a permanent residency since 1968. There, over two nights, the tapes picked up a typical selection of standards by Porter, Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, and other interwar songwriting masters, plus some more recent material, played by Short's piano trio, which also featured Beverly Peer on bass and Richard Sheridan on drums. The singer/pianist's talent lay in mixing his spirited readings of pop standards like "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "I Get a Kick Out of You" with sophisticated, amusing fare like "Miss Otis Regrets," earthy blues pronouncements like "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues," and the cream of contemporary Broadway. This last was represented by several selections by Broadway's leading songwriter of the early '70s, Stephen Sondheim. Short borrowed "Sorry-Grateful" from Company, "Losing My Mind" from Follies, and "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music. In each case, these were ballads of romantic frustration, and Short treated them reverently, perhaps a bit too reverently. Thankfully, the listener was never far from a change of mood on this album, making for a full evening that mixed uptown with down-home, all delivered by a smiling man in a tuxedo. Given the live setting, however, the editors might have been advised to include more spoken remarks and to refrain from fading the sound out after every track. As it was, most of the time, Live at the Café Carlyle came off as a regular studio album that happened to have applause rather than evoking the spontaneous and seamless feel of a live album. [In 2006, Collectables Records reissued Live at the Café Carlyle as a single-disc CD.)

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