Posted on May 17, 2019 at 3:02 am

Man, oh man, do I love Doris Day’s singing. It’s elegant but earthy, with her rich creamy voice that burrows deep into the chords and finds the perfect place to nestle, cozying up against the accompaniment and swinging along with it. I’ve heard people say she’s chilly, she’s bland, but she’s neither of those things; what’s remarkable about her singing is how warm it is, how authentic, how close to the bone. There’s not a lot of grit in the sound, but there’s plenty of grit in the emotion. She doesn’t sing like someone who had it easy – to me, she sounds like someone who fights for it and defends it like the devil once she gets it. (To be fair, I’m not talking about “Teacher’s Pet” or some of the other white-bread drivel she was obliged to offer up to stay in the public’s good graces. God bless her, even those more ridiculous songs sound infinitely classier and smarter coming out of Doris’s mouth. But go watch Love Me Or Leave Me and tell me that’s not an extraordinary singer.)

Every month at SubCulture, I ask the guest to come up with a song they might want to sing, something that they don’t often get to do that would be meaningful. Imagine my delight when, in preparation for February’s concert, the sensational Broadway belter Bonnie Milligan said that she was in fact a serious Doris Day fan.

Out came the mirror ball, the brushes on the snare drum, the archtop guitar, the upright bass, and the song for which Doris Day first became famous, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “It’s Magic.” And in this performance, you’ll indeed see magic happen. Watch especially how Todd Reynolds, our felicitous fiddler, bounces phrases off of Bonnie and how she swings right back at him. And when Bonnie comes back in for the modulation, listen to the power and control in that voice, filled with passion and joy. As though she was trying to make sure Doris could hear it.

What I love about this video is what I love about the whole residency at SubCulture – it’s a chance to gather all the musicians I most admire, and to make music together. Watching Todd and Bonnie and Randy and Jamie and Gary all make music together feels like the greatest possible tribute to one of the great singers of the 20th century. Thank you, Bonnie, for bringing a little Doris into our lives.

Bonnie Milligan sings “It’s Magic” (Styne-Cahn), February 11, 2019, at SubCulture

Bonnie Milligan, vocals
Jason Robert Brown, piano & arrangement
Todd Reynolds, violin
Gary Sieger, electric guitar
Randy Landau, bass
Jamie Eblen, drums

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