“FANTASTIC VOCAL ABILITIES” STU HAMSTRA, CABARET HOTLINE

 

Everything Must Change

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Marcus Simeone—his voice goes so far beyond good, his vocal easeseemingly so naturally produced, his oft times extraordinary sonic indulgences so multiplistic, that one is tempted to suspect him of practicing musical dark arts for his lyrical involvement, with more lyric awareness than ever.

After a double bubble opening of a believer’s gospel, ”Many Rivers to Cross” (Jimmy Cliff), and the impressively amped-up ”A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke), Simeone shape-shifts—with “change” being the magic word—into a coupling of a scatty- sounding ”There’ll Be Some Changes Made Today” (Billy Higgins/W. Benton Overstreet/ Herbert Evans) and a freestyle “Getting to Know You” (Rodgers & Hammerstein), then to a smoothly bluesy “You’ve Changed” (Bill Carey & Carl Fischer). All this alchemy is accom- panied by appropriate shares of a pinch of subtle to a dash of satisfying shoulder-shuddering piano pounding by Barry Levitt (also ar-ranger and co-produ-cer), joined throughout the heady brew (ha ha) by nicely featured Morrie Louden’s bass and Jack Cavari’s guitar.

Presto change-o, for the second half of the hocus-pocus! Two tunes into one twice: “Road Ode”/”Home Again” (Gary Sims & Dan Woodhams/Carole King) and “Since You Stayed Here”/”I Haven’t Changed the Room” (Peter Larson, Josh Rubins/Barry Manilow)—both second songs first rate. Separated by  “Everything Must Change“ (Bernard Ighner) (so all in love is fairish), is “Be Aware” and as epilogue, “I Just Have to Breathe” (both Burt Bacharach & Hal David), might just leave you breathless.

Ladies and gentlemen, Marcus Simeone. Might I remind you this program was recorded live at the Metropolitan Room. Most singers couldn’t sound like this in a recording studio.

To paraphrase Nina Simone: he’ll put a spell on you.

Noah Tree
Cabaret Scenes
November 2010
www.cabaretscenes.org

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Haunted

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Cabaret Scenes logo
 
January/February 2012
By Noah Tree
 
"... gifted with a gorgeous instrument that begs to wrench your gut ..."
 
When assessing content of a song performed by the person who created it, the listener must be sensitive enough to wisely remember to consider the personal relationship inherent in coupling art and artist: the between-the-lines unwritten emotional text in the interpretation that speaks volumes not annotated on the page. This can either be a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts experience or easily become a trap, producing a ritualistic adherence to an excruciating level of pathos.

Haunted opens with such a tripwire offering. Marcus Simeone, gifted with a gorgeous instrument that begs to wrench your gut, always keeps it in control just this side of sanity. The eponymous title tune, penned with Tracy Stark (the CD’s musical director—and pianist on this cut) sets the stage for the rest of the album which offers other personal assists: John Bucchino ac-companies with piano on his own ”If I Ever Say I’m Over You” and the multi-talented, lovely Heather Sullivan does the same—with an umbra of additional vocal—for “Somewhere Lies the Moon.”

Otherwise, with new maturity, heft and breadth, Marcus has effortlessly woven 15 songs into a cohesive and conversational soliloquy: a comfortable cuddle of works freshly hewn. The turnabout balladizing of “If I Only Had a Heart” (Harburg/Arlen)—which unexpectedly surprises—appreciates the lyric of what has usually passed as archetypic patter. An almost haiku rendition of the Rodgers and Hart “Nobody’s Heart” proves less is more. Holland/Dozier/Holland’s ”Where Did Our Love Go” from Motown is whipped up as spicey salsa. Mercer/Arlen’s “Come Rain or Come Shine” is a passionately contagious purifying rhythm.

The bold spirit of Marcus Simeone abounds, his inner voice surfaces and resounds, making this a deservedly vaunted, undaunted, Haunted.

Noah Tree
Cabaret Scenes
January/February 2012
www.cabaretscenes.org

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Marcus Meets Mathis

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Marcus Meets Mathis

When we heard that award-winning cabaret artist Marcus Simeone was doing a show devoted to Johnny Mathis we knew he was on to something smart. Performing the music made famous by Mathis was a natural fit for Simeone whose singing style already resonates with the master's ethereal high notes. We went to his show with high hopes, and this is what we found ...

If you're coming, in part, for the patter, hoping to learn about the life and art of Johnny Mathis, you won't get it in Simeone's show. It's simply not that kind of act. He throws an occasional factoid your way, and he sets up a few songs with Mathis anecdotes, but these moments are more the exception than the rule. Unfortunately, he doesn't replace patter he might have used to give us insight into Mathis with anything else, but that doesn't stop him from talking. Our best advice; if you haven't got something specifically prepared to say before a song, don't talk, just sing.

And singing, of course, is Simeone's strong suit. We haven't seen all of his shows in recent years but among those that we have seen, this is the best he's done so far. Perhaps the overlay of performing an evening of Mathis hits has given him a vocal discipline he never displayed before. When he performs "It's Not for Me To Say," "There Goes My Heart," and "Wonderful, Wonderful," Simeone isn't adding extra syllables in a vocal riff or soaring to high notes for the sake of proving he can do it. No. Working with musical director Tracy Stark, he's mostly singing the songs straight and true. And he sounds all the better for it because the songs are being served rather than being used as a vocal exercise. Speaking of Stark, one of the most charming numbers in the show is a comic duet between her and Simeone called "I Said No." It was sweet, simple, funny, and entirely real.

Both Mathis and Simeone have a natural cry in their respective voices that suggest emotion. And Simeone, at his best, was able to make us feel when he performed "Yellow Roses on Her Gown" and "Answer Me, My Love." At his worst, he had the poor judgment to cover one of Mathis' more foolish adventures, doing a disco version of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." Everything about this number is wrong, starting with a complete misunderstanding of the lyric. "Begin the Beguine" is a song of romantic torment, not a tune one sings with a big smile on your face and a disco ball swirling overhead. Its bad enough Mathis did it; Simeone hardly needed to remind us of the travesty.

We caught the last of three shows Simeone was doing at Helen's, but it's reasonable to assume that he is not yet finished with Johnny Mathis. This is a show that is easily fixed of its modest flaws and, given the subject matter, could readily be booked in clubs around the country.

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Heart

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Marcus Simeone

Heart

Don't Tell Mama
New York, NY
 
 
 
Marcus Simeone’s emotionally charged show at the Metropolitan Room, Heart, produced by Jason Darrow, should not be missed by those who enjoy real showmanship.  They will have the opportunity to see it when Simeone returns to the Met on November 9 and December 15.   Beginning the act with “Too Shy to Say” immediately reminded me of Stevie Wonder, and, guess what? It is by Wonder.  Simeone hams it up as he sings in his pleasing, reliable voice that changes in tempo and increases in volume.  In addition to using his compelling voice, with his emotionally expressive face, he grabs the audience’s attention and involvement in the act, as evidenced by it’s foot-tapping to the beat and the applause that follows.

Though at first Simeone’s palette seems a bit limited, his singing of  “Somewhere Lies the Moon” disabuses one of this impression.  Here, ironically, his well-trained voice renders a more intelligent, nuanced delivery with more shadings of feeling that appeal to the emotions naturally. We see that trained technique can produce what is intuitively unexpected—smooth, easy-seeming, unaffected results.

Marcus Simeone’s unusual generosity in introducing and handing over the stage to a young singer, Caress, during his October 5th performance was moving and admirable.  He was warm and empathetic as he encouraged her to work up an act and even shared with those present the fear he had to overcome to do so himself.   He even moved among the audience, and gave several amateurs the opportunity to join in the refrain, "Just one kiss.”  An outbreak of smiles and laughs moved contagiously through the room.

Barry Levitt, musical director, and the Barry Levitt Quartet, do a fine job of accompanying the singer.  Marcus Simeone is also assisted by back-up singer, Carol Goodgirl.

Gloria Taplin
Cabaret Scenes
October 5, 2008
www.cabaretscenes.org

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