Joe’s Pub is an interesting venue that hosts anything from nouveau jazz to world record appreciation events. As a result, a night here rarely lacks color and variety.
Two shows last month proved this point. One artist is a salsa meets jazz and funk guy, the other strives not to “put a Shirl on it”.
Jay Rodriguez November 15th
Talk about a sentimental journey. This examiner’s fondest memories of Jay Rodriguez are his soaring contributions for legendary New York band Groove Collective. This evening immediately brought back memories of Wetlands (no longer exists) in the mid-nineties. The free-flowing music that invited everyone to dance always managed to build a community of open minds and moving feet. Happily, the show at Joe’s November 15th did not feel any different.
The seven-song set accomplished the near impossible feat of making an earlier Monday night seem like a late Friday night. Dancing and good spirits on a work night? Preposterous. Yet, there we were, enjoying every minute. Rodriguez is well versed in Latin and Nuyorican grooves, which guaranteed that each song had a refined accent. The immediately recognizable covers were given extra seasoning. The Sam and Dave classic, “Hold On, I’m Coming”, included a bass line not unlike the one that makes “Soul Makossa” so solid. Killer drums and percussion further deepened the sound. This examiner was particularly moved by the interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Naima”, a personal favorite. The percussion sent the song soaring. As the set ended, it was delightful to know that an artist can grow with you while maintaining a permanent vitality.
Barb Jungr November 28th
Barb Jungr is a stellar personality. In a loud floral dress, the talented Brit stood out from the Sunday evening New York City cabaret crowd at Joe’s. She’s so affable that one smiles without effort.
Most of the set consisted of songs from her recent CD, The Men I Love: The New American Songbook. The album is a collection of covers unique in that they are all written from the male perspective, but rarely does she change pronouns. The stage banter was funny and bubbly without feeling fey and saccharine. Best line: “putting a Shirl on it”- translation: singing in the very loud style of Dame Shirley Bassey. Thankfully, she avoided the Shirl and was far more intimate and real.
Jungr honored each song, respecting the lyrics in ways that the originals sometimes did not accomplish. A prime example was the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”. Lyrically, it’s a brilliant contemplation of questions many people in their thirties and forties ask. However, this examiner’s teenage memory of this song was the bass line more than the chilling line, “My God, what have I done?” The current adult finally understands David Byrne’s laments.
The greatest strength of the show was Jungr’s honesty in her delivery. She knows her where her power lies and what’s not so powerful yet uses it all to her advantage. After hearing her sweet cover of “I’m a Believer”, one has to agree with her: “Who knew The Monkees were so good?”
Nearly any given night at Joe’s Pub is one of entertainment. Visit their website for information on upcoming performances and special events.