Everything Old is New Again: NYC Cabaret

What happens to great American songs of yesteryear? Well, they don’t die, no, they become staples of cabaret society.

For years at radio station WBAI, Dave Kenney has been preserving and propagating, through his weekly radio program Everything Old is New Again, what he calls the “Great American Songbook”: those great songs, that were mainly Broadway bound, from the likes of George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, Frank Loesser, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and so on. It’s a tradition that jazz and cabaret singers have elevated to a whole separate art form, distinct from the legitimate theater.

Last week, Kenney produced and hosted a wonderful cabaret benefit for WBAI listeners at the Metropolitan Room, an intimate and comfortable space in which to host such an event. The talent on display was delightful and happy-making. It was a two-hour master class in the Art of Cabaret. The singers were all veterans of the cabaret and Broadway scenes, and it was fun to watch them cheer each other on.

Performers included KT Sullivan and Jeff Harner, Liz Callaway and her sister Anne Hampton Callaway, Karen Oberlin and Steve Ross, Karen Mason and Paul Rolnick, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, Gabrielle Stravelli and Pat O’Leary. All of them excellent, and all accompanied on the piano by the talented Alex Rybeck, who also composed some of the performers’  songs.

You can see and hear vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli in the YouTube clip above, singing “Goody Goody” at a previous performance. She performed the song at the benefit as well, and her interpretation at the benefit was even sharper and wilder.  She let loose, scat singing and improvising fearlessly, getting to the vindictive core of the song’s lyric:

“So you met someone who
set you back on your heels,
goody goody!
So you met someone and
now you know how it feels,
goody goody!”

I think anyone who heard that performance will think twice about ever crossing Ms. Stravelli. (Only joking, joking, Stravelli!) Afterwards, she said, “What can I say?–I love singing revenge songs–I’m Sicilian!”

Thanks Dave Kenney and all the terrific performers for providing such a Goody Goody time.