Court Needs Order…But Final Verdict is “Not Guilty”

Posted: July 5, 2011 in Cabaret, Culture, Entertainment, Music, New York City, Nightlife, Performance, Uncategorized

The problem with some debut acts, especially those ambitious enough to plunge right in without any major experience in the arena by exercising a valiant attempt at a new and unique form of artistic expression, is that there is so very much room for so very much to go awry. Fortunately, this is not always the case with newcomer Court Graves and his Brazilian jazz outing, A Minha Noite Perfeita (My Perfect Night), which bowed in June at Metropolitan Room and is heading for SoCal gigs in August at the Catalina and the Gardenia respectively. Unfortunately, the wrongs and the rights of the evening are in equal flood. And yet the wrongs, however copious, are wholeheartedly reversible should Graves so choose to make certain important changes to the presentation.

It should be noted right off the bat that Graves has clearly had extremely impressive vocal training. And his selection of musicians for the evening couldn’t possibly have been more top-notch; these include Alva Nelson on piano, percussionist Sebastiao Apolinario, Chris Sullivan on bass, Doug Harris on both flute and saxophone, and the ever-impressive Vita Wallace not only on violin but accordion. In addition, JP Perreaux’s lighting design and technical direction are splendid as always. But where difficulty begins to rear its unsightly head is in twofold instances; one is the fact that Graves isn’t in ownership of a particularly riveting voice, nor the sparkle of personality, to carry a show of this sort based simply on sheer charm. On the whole, the evening possesses neither the communication of cabaret nor the musicianship of vocal jazz to make it seem anything other than supreme self-indulgence. The other problem lies within Graves’ oft-simplistic choices of material from the Great American Songbook; nothing interesting or newfangled is coming from the treatments given to such songs as “Too Close for Comfort,” “Lover Come Back to Me,” and “So In Love.” He gives “I’m a Fool To Want You” a fair shot, although following it with the equally-balladic “Night Song” is an obvious mistake, and choosing to sing “Natural Sounds” near the end of the show takes the gentleman absolutely nowhere in the audience’s estimation. In point of fact, it’s a relief when he winds up the evening with a halfway-decent rendering of “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die,” as much for the fact that it marks the end of the show as the fact that it’s the first time all night he seems to relax, knowing that the home stretch is just around the bend.

And yet…and yet…the very best moments come in the form of those songs NOT from the Great American Songbook but the compositions of the modern generation. These include an outstanding version of John Legend’s “Save Room For My Love,” “Mercy” by Duffy, and an astonishingly-deft interpretation of  “Caramel” by Suzanne Vega, conveyed with every ounce of seduction and the enticement intended when it was written. If Graves might consider embracing the notion of an entire evening of more contemporary material along those same lines, still keeping within the Brazilian jazz framework, and enlisting the aid of a seasoned director who could help guide the show into the most effective evening of entertainment imaginable, he would most certainly emerge a winner on every count.

It could well transpire that the future holds wonderful circumstances for Court Graves on stages all over the world. Regrettably, this wasn’t one of those occasions. And it really wasn’t the fault of anyone or anything other than the gentleman’s clear lack of savvy as to what flies within the nightlife arena in New York and elsewhere. In point of fact, it was hardly a perfect night. Or, as one might say in Portuguese, “Não foi uma noite perfeita.”

  1. Michael says:

    Oh dear dear dear dear dear…

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