Musical Direction and Arrangements by Ian Herman
Upright Bass – Matt Wigton
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Often blending the velvety vibrato of Edith Piaf with the physicality of Judy Garland, Carole J. Bufford creates a unique and savvy song styling with which she graces the Metropolitan Room in her new “Body and Soul” which plays at the iconic Room on Wednesdays through February 27.
Exhibiting a marvelous clear tone and vocal quality, impeccable (and often unique) phrasing, and a remarkable understanding of a song’s lyric and the ability to interpret that understanding, Ms. Bufford successfully breezes through her program of fifteen songs that deliciously stretches the boundaries of The Great American Songbook.
The artist’s unique phrasing is evident in the earliest of the songs “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” the jazz standard written in 1919 by Charles Warfield and Clarence Williams (though Warfield claimed he was the sole composer of the song). That same idiosyncratic phrasing is manifest in the most recent (2012) song “Fade into You” (Music and Lyrics by Trevor Rosen, Shane McAnally, and Matt Jenkins). This hit from the television show “Nashville” sports the lyric from the second stanza “If you were a window and I was the rain/ I’d pour myself out and wash off the pain/ I’d fall like a tear so your light could shine through/ Then I’d just fade into you.” Ms. Bufford outdoes onomatopoeia when she makes the word ‘fall’ unmistakably fall from her lips onto the stage.
Whether giving new life to “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine” (Music by Jerome Kern; Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, 1927) or celebrating the comedy in “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again” (Music and Lyrics by Earl Brent, 1944), Carole J. Bufford succeeds in her goal of “stripping a song down to the emotion.” This is a remarkable feat which not every vocalist can achieve. There is nothing superficial about Ms. Bufford’s delivery of the classic song dealing with the satisfaction when, after being dumped, the offending lover attempts to crawl back. Her rendition of the jazzy blues ballad “Cry Me a River” (Music and Lyrics by Arthur Hamilton, 1953) vies with Joe Cocker’s upbeat rock rendition for best interpretation of this popular American torch song.
The final number “Body and Soul” (Music by Jonny Green; Lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton, 1930) gives Ms. Bufford the opportunity to add her interpretation of this most recorded jazz standard to those before her from Libby Holman in 1930 to Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse in 2011. Carol J. Bufford makes it crystal clear that body and soul are inseparable in life, in death, and in life beyond death.
Ms. Bufford’s encore could not have been more appropriate or more captivating. In all matters of body and soul, there truly are “no regrets.” Her rendition of this iconic song shatters the confines of space and time and revivifies both soul and body of Edith Piaf who witnessed selflessly to the mantra that, “Because my life, my joys/ Today, they begin with you.” For her audiences, life and joy begin anew when they hear her sing.