Posted on October 3, 2015 at 1:05 am

Last night was exactly the kind of night that this residency was built for – the premiere of two new songs, beautiful performances and surprising reinventions of older material, a wide variety of styles and energies all feeding each other, great musicians making music together, and an audience that was ready to follow wherever the onstage performers went.

Four amazing things:

  1. The first-ever performance in America by the astonishing Cynthia Erivo. Cynthia absolutely destroyed the Royal Festival Hall during my concert there in May, and I couldn’t wait for her to get to the US this fall for her starring role in The Color Purple on Broadway. Well, she started rehearsals on Thursday morning, and Thursday night, she showed up to SubCulture and an unsuspecting audience lost its collective mind. Watching a star begin to shine? Amazing.
  2. The premiere of a song from King Kong – Marsha Norman and I have been asked to help bring this spectacular show to life in America after an enormously successful production in Australia.  The stagecraft is simply astonishing, and it’s a real joy to write music that evokes both the legendary novel and films that inspired this musical and the extraordinary world in which this show takes place.  And Tony Yazbeck sang the BEJEEBUS out of it.
  3. I get an idea for a song on Sunday. I write a couple of verses, but I’m not sure where it’s all going and I don’t really have time to figure it all out while I’m in rehearsal for Prince of Broadway. I get a sense of what the groove should be.  I rehearse the groove with the band on Wednesday. I realize that the song only works if there are backup singers. On Thursday, in the middle of the show, I call three unbelievable belters out of the audience, bring them up on stage, teach them the part they have to sing (while the audience is watching), and then we all launch into this brand-new, not-quite-finished creation and start to discover it and learn where it’s supposed to go. Something I’ve never done in front of a crowd before, but what a blast!
  4. Finally getting to sing again with the glorious Kate McGarry, who I’ve been obsessed with since Fred Hersch introduced me to her music ten years ago. We got to do a show together at Birdland in 2006, but we haven’t been able to find a night since then to get on stage and make music.  Last night was worth the wait, not only to hear her sing the song I wrote for her and two other songs of mine to which she applied her own unique and soulful spin, but also to jam out on the awesome and terrifying arrangement she and Keith Ganz created of Steely Dan’s “Barrytown.” Her interplay with Randy and Todd was a real joy to behold.

One more show left in the residency – November 2! I still don’t know for sure what mischief I’ll be getting up to that night, but the last ten shows have all been wondrous and surprising and crazy fun, so I’d say that’s a likely outcome. And I’m hoping to announce my plans for 2016 soon!  Thanks to everyone who’s been supporting this sensational year of concerts. It’s been everything I could have dreamed.

Wondering (from The Bridges of Madison County)
JRB

Melinda
JRB

Something Unknown (from King Kong)
Tony Yazbeck

JRB 10.1.15 still 2

This Is Not Over Yet (from Parade)
Tony Yazbeck

One More Thing Than I Can Handle (from Jason Robert Brown in Concert)
Kate McGarry

Barrytown (Becker/Fagen)
Kate McGarry

Break Me Blues
Kate McGarry

JRB 10.1.15 still 3

Long Long Road (from Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes)
Kate McGarry

Then What?
JRB with surprise backup divas Jessica Vosk, Bryonha Marie Parham & Mariand Torres

JRB 10.1.15 still 8

Fifty Years Long
JRB

Christmas Lullaby (from Songs for a New World)
Cynthia Erivo

I Can Do Better Than That (from The Last Five Years)
Cynthia Erivo

JRB 10.1.15 still 4

Wait ‘Til You See What’s Next (from Prince of Broadway)
JRB and the cast of Prince of Broadway sitting in the audience

JRB 10.1.15 still 5

… and a surprise encore of Melinda in honor of our youngest Caucasian Rhythm King, Jamie Eblen, who’s heading off to Tokyo with Prince of Broadway and won’t be able to play the November 2nd show! Sad face emoticon!

JRB: piano & vocals
Jamie Eblen: drums
Randy Landau: electric and upright bass
Michael Aarons: electric and acoustic guitars
Todd Reynolds: violin

Credits: