David Yazbek Delivers at 54Below

 

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by MR Anderson

 

No pomp, all circumstance: these are the ingredients of a David Yazbek kind of night. In his two-night stand at Feinstein’s/54Below last weekend, his merry band bursts into the intro of “Terrible Thing,” David slinks onto the piano bench and starts tearing into the tune without a wink.

 

Despite his inescapable presence, he continues to protest the spotlight by bringing up Adam Kantor—who justifiably had cut out early to make it to his call for the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, in which he’s currently performing. That said, Adam’s bravado in Yazbek’s “Madrid is My Mama” is an exciting contrast to his timid Motel. Jumpy and electric, he takes control with impeccable patter-diction. With a feather-voiced “Answer Me,” he croons with equal aplomb.

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“Monkey Baby Hanging on Chicken Wire” sets up the remainder of the set with a heavy groove. With lines like, “No ears around to hear your howl / Turn up your amplifier,” we begin our ascent (or is it more than vertical?) into the lyrically atypical mind of the creator. Evocative imagery, melody, and adept storytelling intertwine frequently with David. Prefacing “Sandy Koufax” with a family tale makes the line “Is it good for Baseball? / Is it good for the Jews?” all the more humorous and unique.

 

Two more guest artists make an appearance: Stephen Hill’s emasculating bass voice shakes you to the core in “Schmuck in A Vacuum.” Katrina Lenk’s haunting and ephemeral tone alone paints an irresistible dreamscape in “Omar Sharif.”

 

The lighting aligned well with the experience, highlighting and supplementing without intruding.

 

The verbosity of the night would never succeed so well without the expertise and adaptability of the band. Dean Sharenow (Drums), Erik Della Penna (Guitar), Tony Orbach (Tenor Saxophone/ Flute), Paul Vercesi (Bari/Alto Saxophone), Mike Boschen (Trombone), Javier Diaz (Percussion), and Alexandra Eckhardt (Bass) jibe with David’s brand like they’ve played with him for years—not surprisingly, a few of them have. Suring the encore of “It Isn’t Fair” the band blows brass off the horns with intimidating ease.

 

Thankfully, David can easily keep up. In between decrying his love for “gingko trees” (multiple times), he burns at the piano like a depraved genius at a typewriter. In “Montgomery Alabama” he bangs out mind-altering chords like he’s swatting flies. Mr. Yazbek’s recipe is one of hope through perfect wryness.

 

David Yazbeck performed Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 at 7 pm at Feinstein’s/54Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue). For reservations and information, call 646-476-3551 or visit www.54Below.com

 

 

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