Paula West

| July 21, 2017

Paula West

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, July 6, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Paula West

Paula West contentedly settled in to her two-week stint at Feinstein’s with a good old comfort song, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s popular “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home.” It’s a drifter’s song and, as any performer knows, it’s part and parcel of the trade. But West is home in San Francisco and it’s always a pleasure to hear what collection of tunes she has in store for us in this run.

Over the many years of following West’s career, I’ve gathered she has category buckets from which she easily assembles her eclectic song lists: from her contemporary, political, or poetic lyricists there’s a Dylan song—like this evening’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”—or uncommon Beatles songs like her set closer, “Golden Slumbers”/”Carry That Weight.” From her humorous side, she’ll pull out a “Man Wanted,” “Gimme Me a Pigfoot,” or tonight’s laugher, Cole Porter’s “Nobody’s Chasing Me.”

Need pure wistful romance? There’s the go-to pair of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and West dips into that well with “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific and “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I. She always honors those who came before her and loves a good Ethel Waters number, this time astutely choosing the giddily optimistic “A Hundred Years from Today” (Victor Young/Ned Washington/Joe Young). She contrasts that hope with a sardonic political statement from John Lennon, his 1971 anti-corruption “Gimme Some Truth.” She is not one to shy away from social protest and Lennon’s words are certainly germane today.

West chooses her bandmates wisely and allows them ample opportunity to shine collectively and individually. Musical director Bruce Barth is a longtime jazz pianist and handles the arrangements; longtime collaborator Ed Cherry is dynamite on his archtop Victor guitar; percussionist Greg Wyser-Pratt is tasteful; and bassist Vincente Archer adds an exquisite rhythm to each selection.  It all comes together on an old Ruth Etting swinger like “Shaking the Blues Away” (Irving Berlin) or the jazzy classic “Angel Eyes” (Matt Dennis/Earl Brent).

Of course, West returned for her encore with dog Satchmo in tow for her familiar signature rendition of Oscar Brown, Jr’s. “The Snake.” In fine voice and in a chatty mood for the normally reserved West, this set satisfies our appetites till our next meeting.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, Regional, San Francisco, San Francisco Cabaret Reviews

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