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Long-Overdue L.A. Club Debut for Stellar Singer

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

San Francisco singer Kitty Margolis made her Los Angeles club debut at Catalina Bar & Grill on Tuesday night. And the first thought that came to mind during her exhilarating set was to wonder why in the world it hadn’t happened sooner. Yes, Margolis has previously appeared in various concert venues around the Southland, but never before, she reported, in a traditional jazz nightclub setting.

Better late than never, as it turned out, even if it was only a one-nighter. The current rush toward the signing of new, young, female jazz vocalists is tending to obscure the importance of musicality, inventiveness and experience. Margolis, 46, offered a performance that was a brilliant reminder of the great pleasures of jazz singing when it is delivered by a mature, gifted, creative artist.

Her set dispensed multileveled layers of pleasure. There was, first of all, the sheer sense of joy in performing that was a palpable presence in everything she did. Completely centered, completely in the moment, Margolis’ total involvement in the enjoyment of making music reached out to embrace her players--pianist Michael Bluestein, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Paul Kreibich--as well as her enthusiastic listeners.

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A firm believer in the notion that entertainment and artistry can be completely compatible with one another, she proved that premise in one number after another. Opening with a burningly fast, up-tempo romp through “I Want to Be Happy,” she immediately displayed her vocal virtuosity, punching out inventive variations on the song’s basic theme.

Pausing between numbers, she took a moment to eloquently introduce Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” stressing the value of its message in the context of the past year’s disturbing events, singing the classic tune with passionately engaging intensity.

Shifting into ballad mode, Margolis’ version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” was climaxed by an extraordinary closing cadenza in which her melismatic vocal lines slid dramatically in and out of the dissonant parts of the underlying harmony.

Other songs--"We Kiss in a Shadow,” “Summertime,” “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” and “My Favorite Things"--were filled with equally inventive moments, tempered by her witty sense of humor and high-spirited stage presence.

Underlying and enhancing all her other extraordinary qualities, there was Margolis’ sophisticated musicality--an ear for harmony, an improvisational imagination and a buoyant sense of rhythmic swing that place her at the very top level of the jazz vocal art.

And one could only hope that the current emphasis upon youth and its demographic appeal will not completely overshadow the work of such a vital and valuable artist.


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