What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

December 31, 2008

I’ll actually be on an airplane flying home that is due to land at National at 11:50pm.

Here’s a song with the holiday sentiment sung by Elaine Paige and Kris Phillips.  It frankly puzzles me that this has not become a seasonal standard. 

I hope all my readers have a happy, hopeful 2009 with all the fulfillment of your cabaret wishes.

Another Martini at Martuni’s

December 30, 2008

I was at Martuni’s in San Francisco again last night and I got to attend their “Piano ar 101: Mondays at Martuni’s”*, the open mic played by Joe Wicht.  Another terrifically gifted musician,  Wicht is an encouraging presence to people performing at the venue.  He brings warmth and supportiveness as well as musical inventiveness to the arrangements he builds on the fly.  And just strikes one as a lovely, charming person.  (He kept reminding me of Doug Yetter, still greatly missed by his DC-area groupies no matter how successful and fabulous his Clear Space theater in Rehoboth is!!!)

The crowd at Martuni’s consisted of people doing lovely things at all levels of talent; and they were attentive and supportive to people performing.  Here’s a link to events at Martuni’s (finally found it)!!!  I am told that the Sunday cabarets are a lot of fun. 

*Not to be confused with “Munday on Tuesday” at the Gardenia in Los Angeles.

Road Report: Slanted Door

December 30, 2008

The food at the Slanted Door was so good I stopped reading.

I am incapable of dining alone without reading material.  And I go to great pains to make sure I have reading material when I’m going to be dining alone.  Let alone a table with light.  And when a dining companion excuses him/herself for a temporary abscence in a restaurant, I often take out a book.  Once while eating katsudon* in a Japanese restaurant in New York, the two Japanese people at the table next to me were having a debate (in Japanese) as to whether I was Japanese or not, because it was inconceivable to them that a Westerner could read and eat a somewhat complicated dish with chopsticks at the same time.**

The last time I visited San Francisco, the concierge at the Hilton found it quite amusing that I asked whether I could get a dinner reservation at the Slanted Door sometime that week.  So as soon as the trip came up, I made a reservation.

The place bills itself as Vietnamese.  I don’t have a lot of experience with Vietnamese cooking, but the food here was amazingly approachable.  Believe it or not, the highlight of the meal was a side dish of brussel sprouts with trumpet mushrooms stir fried in a garlic-scented oil.  Now I’ve never been a big trumpet mushroom fan, and I’m only OK with brussel sprouts.  But this was a “wow.” 

When eating at the restaurant, I tried to figure out what made things so good. It was as if the flavor settings on all the dishes had been dialed up.  But there were no secret ingredients.  It was just outstanding material, in well thought-out combinations, executed with craft and skill, beautifully presented in an audience-friendly fashion.  Hey, that sounds like what cabaret should be, doesn’t it?***

* A fried pork cutlet, sauteed onions, and egg over rice.

** Actually, when I studied in Tokyo, other Western students constantly encountered amazement by the Japanese when they demonstrated an ability to eat with chopsticks.  Is there any Western person out there who has been impressed by an Asian being able to eat with a knife and a fork? (Which I might add takes coordinating instruments in two hands, not to mention the fact that you don’t get to hold a bowl up to your mouth!) 

*** You knew this piece would eventually get to cabaret, didn’t you?

Road Report — A Martini at Martuni’s

December 29, 2008

katy-stephenI got to go to one of my favorite watering holes in San Francisco, Martuni’s.  It’s one of the last piano bars I know of in the country.  The bar has two rooms, a front room with the bar and a show room in the back.  (What I haven’t been able to find for it yet is a Web site.)

Katy Stephen, a terrific singer/pianist was playing in the showroom.  She has a vibe that is Nellie McKay crossed with Kenley from last season’s Project Runway.  Terrific vocal quality, singing everything from Stevie Wonder to a Mozart aria.  Her piano work was reminiscent of the early, fun, pop/jazz Ann Hampton Callaway before she decided to go the more serious jazz route.  She was also terrifically inventive and sensitive when accompanying other people who sang.*

I got a copy of her CD Saints of the Lost Cause Saloon.  It has the most complicated packaging I’ve ever seen.  It is delivered in a box that looks like it should hold note cards, and the disc is tied in a Jo Malone-esque black ribbon around a sheaf of individual pieces of paper/collage art giving info about the songs.  It’s an appropriate presentation for a fascinating, dense disc.  The songs, mostly written by Stephan, have a quirky folk quality enhanced by unique orchestrations incorporating instruments like organ, saxophone, and toy piano.  I’m looking forward to re-hearing the material. 

1 Betrothal
2 Here’s to Us
3 I’ll Grow a New Heart
4 Battleship Rose
5 Clouds
6 The Humming Chorus
7 On Stow Lake With the Nightingale & the Rose
8 Built to Fly
9 The Revenant
10 O Grace
11 Aileen
12 Some Where

(Yes, I got to sing.  I did Rhode Island Is Famous for You — with a lyric glitch in the 2nd verse — and Windmills of Your Mind with Stephan doing a fascianting tango break in the middle.)

On the road again…

December 28, 2008

Just wanted to warn you that I’m going to be a little flaky for the next couple of days.  I’m on the road for work, covering a conference that actually thinks it’s a good idea to have a meeting the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Sadly, the Empire Plush Room is no more, and there’s nothing I really feel like seeing at the Razz Room.  I’ll keep you posted.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday!!!

Am I the last to know …

December 26, 2008

… about goldstar? The service provides discounted tickets to arts events in this area (and others) that can be ordered online and in advance!  (And as much as I love the people at Tickeplace, there are some major advantages here.)

Also, it is a great forum to publicize your event.  The people doing Santaland Diaries said that even though they put a limited number of tix for each of their shows on the service, there was a spillover effect in terms of attendance.

Pas bon…

December 26, 2008

Sad news for Christmas about the passing of the woman who introduced the song Santa Baby.  An amazing life — from sharecropping, to working as a dancer with the great Katherine Dunham, to success in Broadway and Europe, to angering LBJ so much that she was blacklisted in the U.S., and on and on!  Orson Wells once called her “the most exciting woman alive.”

I only saw Eartha Kitt once, at the long-shuttered disco Tracks, when she was in her camp-disco period.  She was every bit as fabulous as  you would want an aging diva in the midst of a desperate career move to be.

Kidding aside, truly one of the greats and a great survivor.  Here’s a link* to my favorite of her oeuvre — I’m Still Here.  When she sings “first you’re another sloe-eyed vamp, then someone’s mother, then you’re camp,” well, how much more honesty can there be ?

*For reasons I don’t quite understand, I stuill haven’t been able to figure out how to embed BlueGobo videos into WordPress.