Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Connie Evingson

When: 2/25/08
Where: Dakota
Who: Connie Evingson (vocals), Phil Aaron (piano), Dave Karr (tenor saxophone, flute), Gordy Johnson (bass), Phil Hey (drums)

It’s the CD release party for Connie Evingson’s eighth recording and maybe her strongest, Little Did I Dream. (The “maybe” is because I’m not familiar with her 2000 release, Some Cats Know, which a lot of singers love.) All 14 tracks are by St. Paul native, jazz legend, and wiseacre Dave Frishberg, who plays piano on the CD and is in the house tonight. It’s an open curtain show and looks sold out. Minneapolis and St. Paul love Connie.

The band warms up with an old song (1938) by Rudolf Friml called “Only a Rose.” Then Connie comes on stage looking fabulous in a sparkly, lacy cocktail dress and shrug. This is her night and she’s ready. She opens with the title track from the CD, “Little Did I Dream,” a swinging, sophisticated tune. Next up is the saucy “Peel Me a Grape,” a song I first heard sung by Diana Krall; it has also been recorded by Blossom Dearie, Shirley Horn, and Anita O’Day, among many others. This is a new arrangement Frishberg created for Connie, speedier than the languid, late-night Krall version.

She follows with the ballad “Our Love Rolls On,” then “Can’t Take You Nowhere,” more smart-aleck Frishberg. She tells us that Frishberg wrote the next tune, “Listen Here,” for Mary Tyler Moore in the 1980s. Before beginning “My Attorney Bernie” (as on the CD, she’s alternating more straight-ahead numbers with the witty lyrics Frishberg is famous for), she tells us that Bernie is in the room tonight as well.

After “Bernie,” Frishberg is persuaded to take the stage. He and the quartet play a song they recorded earlier that day, Fats Waller’s “Sweet and Slow.” Then Frishberg introduces “Quality Time,” a tongue-in-cheek tune about a couple too upwardly mobile for romance (“Come fly with me/Unwind, kick back, relax/I’ll bring my laptop fax/You’ll bring your new screenplay….”). He thanks Connie for making the record and all of us for coming: “This is probably the biggest audience I’ve ever had.” It’s a warm and affectionate segue to “Snowbound,” the song they sing together on the CD.

The first set ends with “Zoot Walks In,” with a spoken lead, Beat Poet style, by Karr (“Jazz is a saxophone sound...”). The second set continues to take us through the CD: a sweet and lovely “Eastwood Lane,” “In the Evening” (just Phil Aaron and Connie on this one), “Zanzibar,” “I Want to Be a Sideman,” “Heart’s Desire.” Connie is relaxed and easy with this music, and she nails every tune.

Frishberg’s Web site is full of fun stuff.

Gordy and Connie. Photo by John Whiting.

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