During the last few years it has pleased club owners to move the goalposts imperceptibly so that where once all you needed to get a gig was a fair set of pipes or the ability to play a circle of fourths backwards, forwards, and sideways on your chosen instrument, today you still need those talents plus a little something extra
Instead of squandering those pipes/that instrument on a balanced and varied assortment of songs from the Great American Songbook, you now need to concentrate on a single artists or team of artists and offer a tribute act.
Often this turns out to be ho-hum at best because audiences are either fans of the performer and don’t give a big rat’s ass to whom he or she is paying tribute or they are fans of the tribute and don’t care who is laying on the homage. Just once in a while, however, say, once every other fall, they get it spectacularly right and an outstanding time is had by all.
One of those times happened to me on Thursday 7 April at The Pheasantry, when a gorgeous set of pipes, attached to someone named Marieann Meringolo, previously unknown to me, burst onto the stand and proceeded to tear the place apart.
If there’s one thing I appreciate as much as a gorgeous set of pipes it’s a gorgeous set of pipes being unleashed on a gorgeous set of lyrics and as if reading my mind Ms Meringolo showed up with 21 of the finest lyrics to come down the pike, the work of Mr and Mrs Alan and Marilyn (nee Keith) Bergman, a long-married couple who would, had not Marilyn passed away in January, have celebrated 64 years of marriage in November this year.
In some ways the Bergmans formed a bridge between pre- and post-1960 music with their late 50s titles Yellow Bird, Sleep Warm, Nice ’n’ Easy, reflecting the top end of the “quality” spectrum, whilst later titles – The Way We Were, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life, You Must Believe In Spring – rose like cream to the surface of the skimmed milk of post-60s pop.
They collaborated with several composers – Marvin Hamlisch, Lew Spence, Johnny Mandel – but most prolifically with Michel Legrand, who was responsible for no less than 14 of the evening’s haul of 21 songs.
We shouldn’t forget pianist Doyle Newmyer, who had the role of accompanist down to a fine art.
This was the UK debut of a superior artist and it was a pity it wasn’t better attended. I have witnessed at least a dozen female vocalists with far fewer vocal skills, to say nothing of charisma, packing the place out. I will certainly be the first to book a seat should she return.
Marieann Meringolo at The Pheasantry, King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4UT on Thursday 7 April 2022