1. Would You Believe It?
2. Perfect Stranger
3. You Are Not My First Love
4. First Warm Day/My Love Is A Wanderer
5. Sell Me!
6. Let Me Love You
7. Beautiful Women
8. Don’t Dream Of Anybody But Me
9. Who Besides You
10. Walk-up
11. Man In The Looking Glass
12. It Was Worth It!
13. If You Leave Paris
14. Where Do You Think You’re Going/Year After Year
15. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
16. Young Just Once
17. Lovely
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For the uninitiated, this recording of the quiet, gentle, high ranging soprano of KT Sullivan may be a bit off-putting. But give it a chance. This album, recorded live at Rainbow & Stars, requires a second listen. The more carefully you listen to it, the more KT will endear herself to you, as she does so effectively in her live cabaret performances. She manages to take us into the soul of her subject, poet/songwriter Bart Howard, who as yet, is mainly known to the masses for his Fly Me To The Moon, originally titled In Other Words. Allow her to introduce, or re-introduce, us to his lesser known material, as she shares the memories of this creative fixture of the sophisticated cabaret scene of the late forties and fifties, just as interest in the elegant, lyric-driven music of this era is resurfacing.

Part of the joy of this live recording is the glinting little tidbits she shares with the audience about Bart and some of his legendary acquaintances, such as Greta Garbo, Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich. A major boon of this collection is the opportunity to get to know and understand more about one of Bart’s greatest muses, the fabled Mabel Mercer, and the powerful influence she and Bart had on numerous better- known recording artists, such as Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne, Margaret Whiting, Johnny Mathis and, of course, Frank Sinatra. KT revives Mabel’s subtle art of bringing out the subtexts of what on the surface appear to be light material. Take her disarming interpretation of Perfect Stranger, as she unexpectedly exposes the insecurities in us all with Bart’s closing line, “Is the perfect stranger smiling, or is he laughing at me?”

KT greatly enhances the material with her brief, historical bios, setting the material within its context and its many layers of meaning. Describing Mabel’s timely introduction to America as the clouds of war were brewing in Europe, she also revealed Mabel’s trauma of only a momentary reuniting with her mother, who gave her up at a tender age, leading into a chilling reading of If You Leave Paris. The ensuing medley of Where Do You Think You’re Going and Year After Year became as much a cry for motherly comfort, as a dialogue between lovers. Here, KT’s soaring soprano is simply inspirational.

Although KT’s soprano works beautifully in some numbers, such as My Love Is A Wanderer, there are times when one wishes she would spend more time in her lower register. Thankfully, she does come into the lower vocal stratosphere for songs like Eartha Kitt’s hit, Sell Me, revealing the unmistakable power of persuasion in her voice. She takes full advantage of some of cabaret’s favorite musicians. Mia Wu’s solo violin adds remarkable character as it’s sprinkled throughout the album, such as creating the romantic aura of an Edwardian Palm Court for Let Me Love You, or adding a sentimental counterpoint to the torch ballad Walk-up. KT humorously refers to John Loehrke as her “first bass,” but he continues to provide gentle underpinnings to her unique musical style. And William Roy provides the perfect connection to the cabaret of the '50s, and his influences from Bart.

After Bart himself provides a witty rendition of Young Just Once as only a worldly octogenarian can, KT shares the crowning gem of the album, a new song which she can take major credit for — Lovely. Having done her homework for a previous Dietz and Schwartz show, she uncovered a poem waiting for music. KT brought it to Bart, and in no time he created a new musical valentine to cap off this lovely tribute to a master of words and music.

Keith Meritz
Cabaret Scenes
September 1996