I 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.
(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.)