Billy Stritch | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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BILLY STRITCH

Billy Stritch's best asset, his versatility, may also be his biggest liability. The Texas-bred, New York-based singer and pianist is equally comfortable with cabaret singing, in which the focus is on dramatic interpretation, and jazz, in which the emphasis is on musical skill. Because the two genres tend to appeal to different audiences, performers often find themselves restricting their artistic range for commercial purposes, but Stritch plans to bridge the gap in his upcoming appearances. He'll incorporate material from his cabaret act Songs From the Last Century, which had a run at Davenport's earlier this year, with selections from his new CD, Jazz Live. With his polished yet punchy piano playing and his smooth yet rhythmically charged vocal style, he's certainly a solid jazzman--no surprise to anyone who heard his brassy big-band arrangements for his booster Liza Minnelli's recent show Minnelli on Minnelli. Jazz Live alternates between brash, breezy cool, as in his bouncy rendition of "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" from Porgy and Bess, and the wistful moodiness he brings to songs like the haunting "Born to Be Blue" by Mel Torme, whose influence--along with that of Carmen McRae, Oscar Peterson, and Bill Evans--is evident in Stritch's sound. Stritch will be accompanied by bassist Eric Hochberg during this two-week engagement, and on his closing night he'll be joined by comic singer Jim Caruso, his partner in a well-received Manhattan club act. Thursdays through Saturdays, September 7 through 9 and September 14 through 16, 8 PM, and Saturday, September 16, 10:30 PM, Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret, 1383 N. Milwaukee; 773-278-1830. ALBERT WILLIAMS

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