Keys to the City

The Great New York Pianists Perform the Great New York Songs

Whether or not more songs have been written in celebration of New York City than of any other city, the fact is that the greatest and most durable standard tunes on the topic of cities are all about New York.

Keys to the City brings together tried and true New York-based standards that span nearly a century, freshly minted in the hands of some of the keyboard world’s most valuable players.

Our Big Apple sojourn begins with three disparate stylists. Robbie Kondor’s evocative, modally tinged shuffle treatment of “On Broadway” sets the stage for Axel Tosca’s assiduous Latin romp through “Take the ‘A’ Train,” followed by Dick Hyman’s patented modern stride rendition of “42nd Street." Earthy gospel and more than a few surprising chord changes characterize Bette Sussman’s nobly embellished take on “New York State of Mind.”

Leonard Bernstein’s “New York, New York,” showcases George Whitty fusing DJ culture and sophisticated, polyrhythmic funk in ways that no doubt would have fascinated and delighted the composer. In “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York,” Billy Stritch’s ingenuous yet logical reharmonizations and steady left-hand walking bass firmly support his suave vocals. Because both Mike Renzi and Lee Musiker are peerless collaborative pianists, it’s easy to forget that they are two of the most elegant, inventive and refined jazz pianists of our time. Frank Owens is another of the profession’s beacons, a man for all seasons whose name is synonymous with musicianship. And Leon Fleisher’s long musical life, deep-rooted artistry and accumu- lated wisdom have shaped pianists for more than a half century. As David Letterman’s longtime musical director and TV sidekick, Paul Schaffer needs no introduction—nor does his encyclopedic grasp of postwar popular music.
By contrast, the multifaceted composer, lyricist, arranger and conductor Glen Roven, who conceived, organized and co-produced this program (with Bette Sussman), refuses to be pigeonholed, as does the stylistic syntax of his vibrant and engagingly unpredictable “55th Street Bop.” But what to do with the most ubiquitous Gotham- inspired song of our era, Kander and Ebb’s “Theme from New York, New York?” Roven answers that question with a programming masterstroke: he programs the original demo of the song that Kander and Ebb (the authors) sang. Only piano and vocals, served up plain, straightforward and not prettified. Just like a New Yorker.

 

JED DISTLER

 

Jed Distler is a composer, pianist, writer, and radio host, based (of course) in New York City! 

Eyes of a New York Woman

performed by Paul Shaffer

Paul Shaffer

Dick Hyman

Leon Fleisher

Autumn in New York

Performed by Lee Musiker

Dick Hyman

Bette Sussman

Billy Stritch

Lee Musiker

Kander and Ebb

See our new EPK featuring all the artists

New York State of Mind
Performed by Bette Sussman