With her September 2012 release, “Loverman,” musical actress and singer Barbara Cook demonstrates exactly how a class act approaches the classics.
Her first career was as a Broadway actress, where she created roles for “She Loves Me” and “The Music Man” (for which she won a Tony). She was a favorite of Rodgers and Hammerstein, in particular. She later turned to the cabaret and concert stage as a singer, focusing on the show tunes she sings so well. She proved to the world that fine show tunes, even complex and character-driven pieces by the likes of Stephen Sondheim, could stand on their own in a spotlight. Now, at 84, her voice still spry and lovely, she is broadening her horizons musically.
“Loverman” has tunes taken from Broadway, such as “Let’s Do it, Let’s Fall in Love,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” and “More Than You Know.” She also embraces jazz with verve on songs like the title cut, first made famous by Billie Holiday, as well as Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
But Cook does not shy away from more contemporary songs, either, breezing through Dan Hicks’ rootsy boogie “I Don’t Want Love” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.”
She also reaches into the past with a bare a cappella take on the Storyville traditional, “House of the Rising Sun.” She partners it in medley, accompanied by piano only, with “Bye Bye Blackbird,” a standard from the 1920s.
Cook’s music director and co-arranger Ted Rosenthal plays piano. Jay Leonhart mans the bass, Warren Odze is on percussion, and Lawrence Feldman handles woodwinds. Lee Musiker and Wally Harper add additional orchestrations. The sound is silky, providing a backdrop for Cook’s voice to shine.
Cook and special guests celebrate her 85th birthday with a concert at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 18. Here’s hoping there will be a few up-and-coming singers in the crowd that night, to see how a true master interpreter gets the job done. Cook still has what it takes.