I’ve Still Got My Standards- This is How It’s Done

Jane Scheckter

 

 

by Alix Cohen

 

Last May, pianist Mike Renzi came across the recording I’ve Got My Standards in his collection. Delighted how well it held up, suffused with memories, he telephoned vocalist Jane Scheckter.“Do you realize,” she asked, “that it’s the 30th anniversary…?!” “We should have a reunion,” Renzi responded. Scheckter telephoned Jay Leonhart whose idea it had been to make the record. His succinct reply? “Let’s go.”

Three of the four original musicians come together this evening to celebrate. Vito Lecheck capably sits in for Grady Tate, who has passed. I can say with confidence our audience feels privileged to be at the party.

Scheckter offers a master class in delivering conversational verse. She sets a tone and unhurriedly draws one in. Feet planted, eyes mostly closed (alas), the vocalist respects and meticulously expresses lyrics. Focus and restraint are apparent. Hands rise or point only when compelled. Curiously, the vocalist’s outer throat moves very like that of the late great Barbara Cook.

Bridged by recollections, with Renzi and Leonhart contributing wry stories about Tate, the group performs selections from ‘Standards and its follow-up, Double Standards. Collabo- ration is symbiotic; the level of musicianship as high as that of mutual admiration. Scheckter’s friends/accompanists are respectively lush and cool.

 

Mike Renzi, Jay Leonhart, Vito Lecheck, Jane Scheckter

 

I want to wrap myself in Renzi’s introduction to “It Might As Well Be Spring” (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein). The song is plumy and wistful, eight bars of two-hander then joined by brush and bass. Helixes of melody rise from the keys. “I’m sure you all know Picasso had a blue period. Well, Mike Renzi had a Ravel period…on this Frank Loesser song.” Notes ripple and flicker like sun on water. “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year”/ A little late arriving in my lonely world over here…Scheckter sings sumptuously.

We hear a recording of Tate’s original count off to “You Took Advantage of Me” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) The number is eezzee; soft cymbal, thrumming bass, skated tune. It’s impossible not to bob. Scheckter spreads her arms as the quartet brings it home. Tangy, bass-centric “Fun To Be Fooled” (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin/Yip Harburg) bears an implicit wink… Fools rush in to begin new love affairs, but tonight, tonight, my dear, who cares? Leonhart conjures a tipped fedora, a Fosse turn and slide. …Fun! Scheckter sings, eyebrows shooting up. 

“People are always asking, what’s your favorite song? “This Time the Dream’s On Me” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) is in big contention.” Long-lined phrasing pairs with heady optimism. Renzi stylishly doodles. A burnished “I Got Lost in His Arms” envisions. Scheckter uses pauses not just as placeholders, but rather as silent lyrics. I don’t think I’ve ever found the song so- moving. Late glissando is utterly fetching.

 

Jane Scheckter

 

“They also ask, who’s your favorite singer?” Two of Scheckter’s strong influences were Bobby Short and, wait for it, Anthony Perkins! (There’s something to YouTube.) From these artists she “developed a love of lesser known songs by the great writers.” The vocalist attributes her renditions of Cole Porter’s “So Near Yet So Far,” “Why Shouldn’t I?” and “It’s Bad For Me” to Short and Perkins.

The first is nightclub dancey tinted Latin. Vibrato extends as if unwilling to let go of sentiment. Even Scheckter can’t resist taking a few swaying steps. The carefree second finds Renzi musically wandering on and off the path with unerring sense of direction. The third swings mellow.

Scheckter’s heartfelt “Lucky To Be Me” is expansive and happy. (Leonard Bernstein/Betty Comden/ Adolph Green). I’m told by another professional vocalist who knew her when, that she’s only gotten better. A refined evening of top notch music awash in conviction and skill.

All quotes are Jane Scheckter

 

Photos by Jeff Harnar

 

I’ve Still Got My Standards – 30th Reunion of I’ve Got My Standards

Jane Scheckter- Vocals

Mike Renzi-MD/Piano

Jay Leonhart-Bass; Vito Lecheck-Drums

August 26, 2018

Birdland   315 West 44th St.

Venue Calendar: https://www.birdlandjazz.com/calendar/

 

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