Posted on April 23, 2007 at 12:13 am

Brian Kellow’s review available here.

I don’t have much problem with his criticism of my “onstage persona” (which is not all that different from my offstage persona, truth be told), but I do find it odd that the one part of my patter he chooses to quote as an example of what “doesn’t always play well onstage” is actually the line that got the biggest, warmest laugh of the night, followed by applause. Go figure. He says lots of nice things about me anyway.

April 2007, vol 71, no 10

On the Beat
Brown strikes sparks in a Great American Songbook evening of his own music

There are few more inviting places on a cold winter night than the Allen Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall: its sweeping views of Central Park South capture, to paraphrase WALTER WINCHELL, New York at its New Yorkiest. The Allen Room is home to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Great American Songbook series, which offered a lively concert on February 9: composer JASON ROBERT BROWN performing an evening of his own music, assisted by the CAUCASIAN RHYTHM KINGS, THE JUILLIARD CHORAL UNION, under JUDITH CLURMAN, and guest soloists LAURA BENANTI and ROZZ MOREHEAD.

Brown’s musical gifts are staggering, and his skill as a composer is beyond question. As a lyricist, he’s something of a confessional poet (his show The Last Five Years was based on his first marriage, and its 2002 premiere was surrounded by a bitter legal wrangle with his ex-wife). The emotional ebb and flow of his lyrics often catches you by surprise; you seldom guess exactly where he’s going. His strongest gift may be for the pastiche-style number, such as “When You Say Vegas,” from his musical-in-progress Honeymoon in Vegas, and the frantic pitch and pace of his best songs fairly pummel you into succumbing to them. Brown’s best-known song, “Stars and the Moon” (made famous by AUDRA McDONALD), was given a slightly off-the-mark performance by Morehead, and even the song itself seemed somewhat ordinary next to such electrifying standouts as “Someone Else’s Clothes,” “Getting Out” and “Moving Too Fast.”

Brown’s biggest problem as a performer is his own persona: the arrogant, driven New York boy tortured by angst isn’t exactly something we’ve never seen before, and as his increasingly callow, self-conscious patter went on, there were times when I longed for a mute button. His insecurity doesn’t always play well onstage: as the Juilliard Choral Union assembled, Brown recalled his rejection, at sixteen, by the Juilliard School, then addressed the chorus directly: “And now y’all are singin’ back-up! Take that, MILTON BABBITT!” Still, it was an exciting evening, and its success was helped immeasurably by the sound and lighting design of SCOTT STAUFFER and MATT BERMAN, respectively.