For years, New York’s Central Park has provided the backdrop for numerous television shows and movies. On Friday, May 19th, Broadway composer Matthew Sklar (Elf, The Wedding Singer) and lyricist William Schermerhorn put the world famous landmark in the spotlight at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Two powerhouse artists, Vivian Reed and Allan Harris ignited the stage with the World premiere song cycle entitled “Central Park and Other Dreams.” The evening was organized by Marty Ashby, a Grammy Award winning, Pittsburgh based jazz producer. Ashby also provided musical direction for the evening.
Between Sklar’s beautiful music and Schermerhorn’s thoughtful lyrics, the pair affirmed the love native city dwellers have for this pastoral haven and invoked a picture-perfect portrait for those who have only imagined it. Reed opened with “Give Me Sky”, a prelude which set the scene. It led in to a tribute to all four seasons: For Spring, Harris sang “The Man with the Camera”, a possible homage to the late photographer, Bill Cunningham-a New York landmark in his own right. Reed emulated the splashing sounds of the Central Park lake with “Stroke!”, followed by Harris, who delivered “The Last Leaf of Autumn”. The cycle ended with a recorded vocal of “I Saw a Sparrow,” a song which Schermerhorn recorded with Broadway Star Ann Hampton Callaway on his 2015 album, The Hope of Christmas.
However, Reed and Harris did not disappoint their loyal fans with only 5 songs. Harris, whose voice has the depth of Billy Eckstine and the smoothness of Nat King Cole, opened the show with a jazz version of “More Today than Yesterday” the popular hit by Spiral Staircase. (Also available on his album here). He then explored some melancholy, yet hopeful territory with Bill Evans’ “You Must Believe in Spring”, a poignant ode to perseverance. Harris ended his set on a high note with a Brazilian bossa nova, “Doralice.”
Vivian Reed, a consummate professional, followed Harris and lifted spirits even higher with “I Love Being Here With You,” a selection from her latest release, Standards and More. Reed amused audiences with a confession that her first kiss “Didn’t really count, because his lips were chapped…chapped, honey!” After the laughter faded, she seduced the crowd with “In A Sentimental Mood”. That was followed by the Rodgers and Hart favorite, “The Lady Is a Tramp.”
Ashby’s band, comprised of some of Pittsburgh’s finest jazz players, had their chance to shine with “54 Below Blues”. The one night event showcased the best that the jazz world has to offer in terms of musicians and vocalists. Bravo, cool cats! Bravo!
For more information on Vivian Reed, click here.
For more information on Allan Harris, click here.