In an industry in which honors and awards are handed out like business cards, it was gratifying to see the first Singers’ Salute to the Songwriter at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Monday night. The heartfelt salute to six of this country’s most-sung songwriters by a parade of America’s foremost pop singers was hosted by Rosemary Clooney for the benefit of the Betty Clooney Foundation for the brain injured.
On hand to hear their words and music performed and their individual crafts lauded during the three-hour extravaganza were Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Cy Coleman, Barry Manilow and Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
The format for the show was simple: Name the songwriter and bring on any of the singing stars that included Beverly D’Angelo, Michael Feinstein, Patti Austin, Maureen McGovern, Debby Boone, Jose Ferrer and Tony Bennett.
Though the highlights were many, some of the brightest moments included Austin’s emotive renditions of Styne’s “The Party’s Over” and the Bergmans’ “Summer Me, Winter Me”; Jose Ferrer’s splendid reading of Coleman’s “A Real Live Girl” in just the right dramatic monotone; Manchester’s version of Manilow’s “Magic” and the Bergmans’ “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”; and Boone’s emotional, perfectly intoned “How Could I Ever Say Goodby?"--also penned by the Bergmans.
D’Angelo, a terrifically gifted young songstress, showed great style in her singing of Sammy Cahn’s “Teach Me Tonight”; Dolores Hope, introduced by her husband, Bob Hope, offered a sweet “Day by Day,” also from the Cahn songbook.
Clooney’s several contributions included swinging steadfastly on Styne’s “Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses.” Her ballad chops were showcased marvelously on Coleman’s “Witchcraft” and Manilow’s beautifully penned “I Hate to See October Go.”
While Manilow drew the loudest screams from the back of the packed house, his music was given a great disservice by Suzanne Somers’ tawdry version of “I Was a Fool to Let You Go.” Manilow accepted his award from Dionne Warwick and proceeded to perform a stirring version of “I Made It Through the Night.”
Jack Jones’ reading of Styne’s “People” was effective, but he later stumbled through Cahn’s “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” in 3/4 time. His reading of the Bergmans’ “Windmills of Your Mind” was flat and ineffective.
Tony Bennett’s heart-wrenching interpretation of “The Music Never Ends” was an appropriate ending to an evening that reveled in the glory of classic pop music.
Kudos are due musical arranger John Oddo and conductor Jack Elliott, who unfailingly led an abbreviated edition of the New American Orchestra.