“A tender plea” is what the fine writer Harriet Choice calls this Sammy Cahn / Saul Chaplin song. PLEASE BE KIND speaks of the vulnerability of love — the way we say “Here is my heart” to the person whose love we gently ask for. When the plea doesn’t work, we could feel as if we’d painted an archery target on our t-shirt.
But when neither person has arrows or bow, happiness is possible, blossoming out of mutual understanding. Kindness becomes the common language, enacted more than spoken.
I’d heard many great versions of this song, by Mildred Bailey, Frank Sinatra, Carmen McRae — but this version, performed at the San Diego Jazz Fest just a few days ago (November 26, 2017) is slower, more tender, and infinitely more touching than any of the more famous ones.
Dawn Lambeth sings it from her heart, as if it mattered, which of course it does.
I’ve known Dawn’s music for nearly fifteen years, thanks to the blessed and much-missed Leslie Johnson, of The Mississippi Rag, who offered me a copy of her first CD, MIDNIGHT BLUE, to review. And from the first notes of “If I Were You,” I knew I was listening to a splendid artist: someone who understood the words, who knew how to swing, whose voice was a gentle warm embrace of the song and the listener. And although it might be rude to speak of an artist “improving,” the emotional riches Dawn offers us now are lasting gifts.
Pianist Kris Tokarski’s little band is just spectacular — Kris on piano, Larry Scala (who set the magnificent yearning tempo) guitar; Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone — showing his heart utterly as well; Nobu Ozaki, string bass; Hal Smith, drums; Marc Caparone, trumpet.
I know that comparisons are precarious, but this performance hits me gently where I live — as Louis and Lester do. Allergies are not the reason my eyes are suddenly damp.
This performance quietly says to me that even in the darkest moments, when I might think all is harsh and hard, “No, kindness and beauty and subtlety have not been lost and will not ever be lost.”
I hope you watch and re-watch this performance, that you go away with words and melody in your mind and ears, and that you, too, make the choice to be kind. It always counts.
May your happiness increase!