Cabaret in New York City is alive and well and certainly diverse as ever. Long a hotbed for developing talent, the cabarets in Manhattan celebrated yet another year of diverse creativity with their 26th Annul MAC Awards (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) presentation held at BB King’s Blues Club.
This year, being a record industry mogul (he says with tongue in cheek), I was asked to be a judge of materials submitted in the field of Best Recording. I dutifully waded through a very mixed bag of about 15 nominated CDs and picked the top 5 as final nominees for the award. As is, I’m way behind on the listening of new submissions for Watchfire Music, but when asked to give my time for this particular job, well, I just couldn’t resist.
Over the years I’ve directed various Cabaret performers’ acts and starting in the late 90s had the incredible opportunity to compose for and direct The Jenny Burton Experience which ran at NYC’s hottest club “Don’ Tell Mama” for seven sold out years and won just about every NYC award conceivable including the MAC Award for Best Vocal Group. So, though I don’t get much of a chance to frequent the Cabarets any longer, I certainly am interested in the genre.
They say that on any given night in Manhattan there are a thousand places you can go to get entertained. Cabaret is certainly one of the most proliferate. And it is not a theater of young lovely chanteuses and gay men as most people think outside of NYC, but, instead, a completely diverse system of developing entertainment ranging from comedians, to singers of all styles to jazz musicians and drag queens, jugglers and just about any other form of entertainment imaginable.
Got talent? Need a place to show it off? Try Cabaret.
Naturally the level of talent is as diverse as the range. The problem facing cabaret is now that Club owners have become greedy, charging outrageous prices to catch an act and drink their watered-down booze, and so going out and taking the chance to catch a new act is just far too chancy for the money spent. Simply put, sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s just plain horrible – sorta like the movies, or television, but at least 10 times more expensive.
The winner of my focus of category, by the way, was most well-deserved. Not at all what one might expect from Cabaret, the award for Best Recording was won by a duo called H2 (Sean Harkness, Mike Herriott): and their Christmas CD, Home For The Holidays — a jazzy approach to time-honored Christmas favorites that captures these old war horses in new and very fresh sonorities and sparkles with imagination, creativity and simply fine musicianship. The unlikely combination of guitar and trumpet really works here and I will play this CD around the house next holiday season for sure. It was my choice for the winner and I was glad to see that it, in fact, did win.
Looking for a little something different? This one’s a sure bet.