Dave Bass, Alison Lewis, Terri Turco

The Cabarabia Spotlight

Hollywood, CA
What was billed as a low-key, casual evening of music by three individual performers turned into a show with moments of extremely high energy. The performers were Alison Lewis, Terri Turco and Dave Bass.

Lewis was clearly the discovery of the evening — a singer with a hauntingly beautiful voice who transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary with brilliant arrangements and vocal experimentation. A transplant from San Francisco exploring the broader opportunities of Los Angeles, she said she likes to take risks and experiment with different rhythms to uncover new colors and meanings. She demonstrated the results in a powerful version of Paul McCartney's “Blackbird,” slowing the tempo and letting her voice soar to show off her wide vocal range; Stephen Gernhauser’s “Be My Baby,” sung with a jazzy blues beat; and finally an earthy, bluesy take on Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” playing around with the melody to make the cabaret standard an entirely new and exciting experience.

Bass was equally fascinating in an entirely different way — singing songs in a gentle, laid-back style, then utilizing the saxophone or flute to transform himself into a powerful force of nature. He established himself in Atlanta before moving West. He accompanied himself on guitar throughout his set but switched, mid-song, to an alto sax, a tenor sax or a flute, blowing his audience away each time and adding greater depth to the performance. He led off with two songs by his father, Robert Bass: a simple, sincere “Made for Each Other,” written in 1948 in a style distinctive to that era; and “So Close to My Heart,” written in 1964 with a rhumba beat. He performed an original song, “Ain’t No Doubt,” which he said he wrote as a song of hope at a low point in his life (“Set my feet on firmer ground/I’m flying/I’ll keep on trying”), followed by original lyrics to William Eaton’s “Winelight,” switching from basic guitar to wail on alto sax.

His best vocal, “Birth of the Blues” (Ray Henderson/Buddy DeSylva/Lew Brown) included a too-brief "growling" solo on the tenor sax; while his closing song, Richard Whiting/Newell Chase/Leo Robin's “My Ideal,” included an effective flute solo.

Turco, who opened the show, was effective on a couple of ballads and offered up some funny patter but seemed to have problems shifting into higher registers. She had her best moments in her closing number, “For Good” (Stephen Schwartz), sung calmly and sweetly with smooth key changes, and in “Orange Colored Sky” (Milton DeLugg/Willie Stein), in which she was vocally consistent. However, with her opening, “Raise the Roof” and again on Sondheim’s “Sooner or Later,” she exhibited a lot of energy but had to strain as she changed keys.

The evening was directed by Clifford Bell, with piano accompaniment by musical director Scott David Cohen and, during Lewis’ set, percussion and flute by Bass.

Elliot Zwiebach
Cabaret Scenes
September 5, 2009