"Abrams Sings Abrams"
Sterling’s at the Federal • North Hollywood, CA
The first Abrams is Jan Abrams, and the other is her Uncle Vic — Vic Abrams, one of the best songwriters you probably never heard of. But the songs he wrote in the 1950s and ‘60s were very much of their time, and they are wonderful songs that his niece delivered in a sweet, loving tribute.
All are representative of the Great American Songbook and, though some were recorded by big stars of the day, none of them broke through to become standards. But they are good songs that, with a little more luck or exposure, might have become part of the canon — and they may still if enough people hear them and decide to sing them.
Abrams is doing what she can to make sure these songs get heard. As a singer, she conveys genuine warmth and deep affection for the material and the audience. Her voice is solid and convincingly conveys all the emotions her Uncle Vic wrote about.
There was a delightful opening number — “When You’re with the One You Love,” (written with Irving Reid), listing the wonderful emotions felt when you’re with the one you love — that had a joyous tarantella beat, yet, when slowed to a ballad at the end of the show, had more dramatic heft.
A ‘50s medley included three lovely but diverse songs reminiscent of those listeners might have heard on the radio of the day — “Portable on My Shoulder (and My Baby by My Side)”; “Dreamy” (with Phil Medley), that could have been a Connie Francis hit (“He takes me by the hand/And I’m in Wonderland/He’s tall, he’s nice, he’s dreamy”); and a bouncy rock-and-roll anthem, “Jumping Jehoshaphat.”
Vic Abrams even wrote a song “with” Tchaikovsky — “Napoleon” — using music from The 1812 Overture and adding some swinging, amusing lyrics about the emperor’s penchant for dancing (“He met his match — the Duke of Wellington/But had he heard the Duke of Ellington/ He would have been the coolest one/The Emperor Napoleon”).
Several of the songs got major recordings, including “Johnny Be Smart,” which Sarah Vaughan recorded in 1955; the bossa nova-infused “Love Me, My Love” (with Arthur Berman), recorded by Dean Martin in 1965; “Tonight My Heart Will Be Crying” (with Reid), recorded by Eddie Fisher in 1957; and the bluesy, emotive “Ask a Woman Who Knows,” recorded by Dinah Washington in 1955 and again by Natalie Cole in 2002.
There was also Abrams’s passionate delivery on “Bel Sante” (with Mack Discant), a beautiful storysong about the love waiting for a sailor back home; and “Share” (with Reid), recorded by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, which features a solid 1950s beat (“If all that I had was a rainbow/I’d share that rainbow with you/ If all that I owned was a moonbeam/I’d share that moonbeam with you”).
Abrams was accompanied by a very strong John Randall on piano. The show, directed by Brian Lane Green and produced by Michael Sterling, had a minimum of patter – just enough to provide some background on each song and a bit about Uncle Vic’s life and career.
November 11, 2012
"... the warmest, most sincere show this side of West End Avenue ... engrossing new show deftly directed by Bruce Kimmel. Filled with cozy gems that have touched her life, her patter was uncomplicated and compelling as she shared bits and pieces of that life through story and song. Much of it told with a cozy, tongue-in-cheek humor which she pulled off with flair ... quickly won over her audience in spades ... she is a pro who made it all worthwhile. Each song had a sense of purpose ... Abrams came from a place that knows her strengths and she conveyed it all with class and amusing intelligence. She knows how to nail a tune. Her songs fit like a glove ... she has the class of Broadway's Angela Lansbury and the like (albeit a few decades younger!)
... a pro who has class, sass and a lot of heart."
— John Hoglund | Theatre Scene
"She sings from the heart and shares what she's feeling clearly and directly with her audience, rather than exhausting it with a surfeit of energy and ego. She sings each song like she means it, with a genuine sincerity that is quickly obvious to listeners."
— Elliot Zwiebach | Cabaret Scenes
"Ms. Abrams can apparently make mid-afternoon at the Culver City Library seem like mid-night at the Carlyle Hotel."
— L.A. Weekly
"Abrams' voice is strong and adaptable with some trilling in the lower register that is literally entrancing!"
— John Michael Koroly | WRSU 88.7 FM | New York, NY
"Many of us were in Manhattan when we had so many little music rooms presenting songbirds thrilled with our lush American Songbook and singing gem after gem with the ease of our purists who first introduced us to the music that became so important to our lives. These purists such as: Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting and Jo Stafford inspired a whole new group of "girl singers." Jan Abrams is one of them. She continues weaving her magic ... please come and enjoy!"
—Donald Schaffer | MAC NYC
"Wine, dine, shop and belt out a song or two with the finest cabaret singer in town: Jan Abrams!"
— Kristin Huntsman | V.P. RCNS
"Jan Abrams has fashioned an excellent cabaret act spotlighting the music of Jimmy Webb. Not only does Abrams perform Webb's music beautifully, but also has a wonderful sense of humor which she displays with her music director, Rick Jensen."
— Robert Goodman | Cab Magazine | New York, NY
"...Since your first appearance here in 1988, you have become one of the favorite singers of the members of the Center ... Your unique talent allows you to personalize your songs and create a rapport with the audience; they feel as if they know you and you know them ... We look forward to a long relationship with you and many more days of song."
— Sondra Schwartz | Program Specialist | CC Center
"She sings from the heart ... in a sweet straightforward unaffected style. Combine that with her warm smile, bubbly personality and strong audience rapport, and it's obvious she's got the goods."
— Cabaret Scenes