Hilary Gardner is not only a fine singer but she has an original turn of mind. She wouldn’t have been the first singer to create a mini-concert around the theme of THE GREAT CITY — which, not incidentally, is the name of her bracingly fine new CD. Details here.
Another singer might choose nostalgia and celebrate New York in formulaic terms of bygone neighborhoods and landmarks, the musical world of the double-decker bus and a pocketful of nickels for the Automat. Hilary has her eyes open to this century as well as to its predecessor. Her world didn’t begin in 1990, but she knows that intriguing songs keep being written about the city that so fascinates her.
The ten songs that follow — glorious evidence of the swinging, witty rapport between her and pianist Ehud Asherie — stretch back to Vernon Duke and Leonard Bernstein, but forward to Nellie McKay and Dan Hicks. Hilary has a beautiful voice and a clear, focused delivery — you can hear she’s thought about the lyrics and how they ring most effectively — and a natural swing, a keen ebullience. Her “contemporary” perceptions aren’t hard or ironic, though; she isn’t a postmodernist smirking at the audience through her songs. No, she balances her sharp observations with a tender romanticism, both evident here.
WHEELERS AND DEALERS:
YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS:
THAT’S NO JOKE:
A NEW TOWN IS A BLUE TOWN:
THE GREAT CITY:
AUTUMN IN NEW YORK:
SWEETHEART / WAITRESS IN A DONUT SHOP:
THIS LITTLE TOWN IS PARIS:
And even those who think that singers should stay in the nicely fenced corral of “The Great American Songbook” should listen closely to both Hilary and Ehud — models of swinging, inventive solo and interplay, music with deep intelligence and deep feeling. And any program of songs she offers us has its own artistic logic: she creates mosaics full of sharp but deeply felt juxtapositions and resonances.
May your happiness increase!