New York Pops
Credit: Richard Termine

The New York Pop’s Unforgettable: Celebrating Nat King Cole and Friends offered a one-night-only evening of memorable tunes at the celebrated Carnegie Hall.

Patrons filled their seats, exchanging greetings with one another as they awaited the sparkling evening to begin. Conversations hushed as concertmaster Cenovia Cummins confidently took the stage and led the orchestra in its tuning. Charismatic conductor Steven Reineke swept onto the stage shortly after, and all eyes and ears focused on the orchestra as it presented its exciting opener, William James “Count” Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump”, the final notes of which positively danced off the stage.

The first of the evening’s two musical guests, three-time Grammy Award-nominated artist Ryan Shaw (London’s Jesus Christ Superstar, Motown: The Musical) entered the stage in spiffy concert attire and sang Nat King Cole/Irving Mills’ “Straighten Up and Fly Right”. Throughout the evening, we were treated to his vocals on Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolph Green’s jazzy “Just In Time”, Charlie Chaplin/John Turner/Geoffrey Parson’s wistful “Smile”, and Cole Porter’s lively “Just One of Those Things”, among others.

Dressed to perfection, the Pop’s second guest of the evening, radiant Nikki Renee Daniels (Book of Mormon, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), presented Milton DeLugg/Willie Stein’s bright “Orange Colored Sky”, followed by a Nelson Riddle arrangement of George & Ira Gershwin’s lovely “Embraceable You.” She additionally offered up Harold Arlen/E. Y. “Yip” Harburg/Billy Rose’s playful “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, Irving Berlin’s yearning “What’ll I Do”, Fred Ahlert/Joe Young’s “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, and Vincent Rose/Al Jolson/B.G. DeSylva’s “Avalon”.

Together, Daniels and Shaw shared Fred E. Ahlert/Roy Turk’s “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home”, Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner-Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart’s “Almost Like Being In Love” / “This Can’t Be Love”, Victor Young/Edward Heyman’s iconic “When I Fall In Love” and Irving Gordon’s unforgettable “Unforgettable”.

Wonderful talents both, Daniels and Shaw performed fantastically, although their singing styles did not necessarily fit all of these tunes made famous by Nat King Cole. However, Shaw’s light and expressive voice was extremely enjoyable, especially in “Unforgettable” and the Lerner/Loewe-Rodgers/Hart medley. Daniels gorgeous voice was particularly heart-felt with “What’ll I Do” and showed amazing expression, power and agility with “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “Avalon”.

In between vocal selections, The New York Pops provided stylish renditions of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, a rousing Nelson Riddle arrangement of “Theme from Route 66”, and Victor Schertzinger/Johnny Mercer’s “Tangerine”, featuring impressive instrumental solos. It was a shimmering night of music enjoyed by all.

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