Albums

$20.49

Crossover - Released April 14, 2009 | Rhino Atlantic

The pairing of sophisticated cabaret singers of two generations -- sexagenarian Mabel Mercer and merely middle-aged Bobby Short -- in a concert at Manhattan's Town Hall on May 19, 1968, was an inspired idea on the part of promoter George Wein, and an even better choice for a double-LP release by Atlantic Records. Both performers were longtime signees to the label, which made things easy. The first LP belonged to Short, who, backed by his usual cohorts, bassist Beverly Peer and drummer Dick Sheridan, turned in a typically appealing set that began with a quartet of Cole Porter songs and went on to a couple of Cy Coleman songs. His expertise on the music of these songwriters was well established, but he went on to try some jazzier and bluesier material, notably "Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer)" and Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Something to Live For," varying these selections with the witty novelties "And Her Mother Came Too" and "On the Amazon." Mercer's set, heard on the second disc, was not so diverse, but her precise rendering of a set of light, romantic lyrics and winning melodies, also dipping into the Porter and Coleman songbooks, kept the audience transfixed. The two returned together for the encore to duet playfully on "The 59th Street Bridge Song" and, appropriately, Coleman's "Here's to Us." The result was a stylish musical evening that harked back decades in New York society and nightlife, but managed to seem utterly contemporary, and it's effectively captured here. ~ William Ruhlmann
$14.49

Crossover - Released October 16, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

After springing for three double-LP songbook albums in three years devoted to Cole Porter, Noël Coward, and George Gershwin, Atlantic Records tracked Bobby Short to his lair for a fourth two-disc collection in December 1973, setting up recording equipment in the tiny confines of the Cafe Carlyle where Short had maintained a permanent residency since 1968. There, over two nights, the tapes picked up a typical selection of standards by Porter, Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, and other interwar songwriting masters, plus some more recent material, played by Short's piano trio, which also featured Beverly Peer on bass and Richard Sheridan on drums. The singer/pianist's talent lay in mixing his spirited readings of pop standards like "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "I Get a Kick Out of You" with sophisticated, amusing fare like "Miss Otis Regrets," earthy blues pronouncements like "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues," and the cream of contemporary Broadway. This last was represented by several selections by Broadway's leading songwriter of the early '70s, Stephen Sondheim. Short borrowed "Sorry-Grateful" from Company, "Losing My Mind" from Follies, and "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music. In each case, these were ballads of romantic frustration, and Short treated them reverently, perhaps a bit too reverently. Thankfully, the listener was never far from a change of mood on this album, making for a full evening that mixed uptown with down-home, all delivered by a smiling man in a tuxedo. Given the live setting, however, the editors might have been advised to include more spoken remarks and to refrain from fading the sound out after every track. As it was, most of the time, Live at the Café Carlyle came off as a regular studio album that happened to have applause rather than evoking the spontaneous and seamless feel of a live album. [In 2006, Collectables Records reissued Live at the Café Carlyle as a single-disc CD.) ~ William Ruhlmann
$25.49

Crossover - Released December 8, 1989 | Rhino Atlantic

$4.99

Crossover - Released February 14, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

$20.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions Stereophile: Record To Die For
Bobby Short is the Frank Sinatra of the supper clubs. Like Sinatra, Short is a consummate entertainer, a true professional. But the distance between Caesar's Palace and the Café Carlyle is approximately equal to the distance between Hoboken and uptown Manhattan, and Short's style is absolutely uptown. He has none of the hardscrabble swagger that infused Sinatra's work with pathos. If ever there was a time when Bobby Short was not invited to all the right parties, he doesn't let on, not for a note. The complete absence of angst makes Bobby Short Celebrates Rodgers & Hart easy listening indeed, but in the most wonderful way. His voice is unruffled and mellifluous, his phrasing spirited without ever being quite over the top. His articulation of Lorenz Hart's superb lyrics rests upon his witty and urbane piano playing like a marcelled starlet draped across a chaise lounge. His music is lovely without being too sweet, coquettish without being coarse, droll without being camp. Debonair, cosmopolitan and utterly self-possessed, Bobby Short is the just the man for the classic show tunes of Rodgers & Hart. Throughout this recording, he sustains a fantasy of New York that exists only on the big screen, and only in black and white. The national anthem of this magical dreamland is the "Hollywood Party" medley. This song is itself a delightful little movie -- a rousing start; drama, action, and intrigue in the middle; culminating in one big, big finale. ~ Jessica Jernigan
$11.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

In the summer of 1957, when Bobby Short went into the studio to record his fourth 12" LP for Atlantic Records, the label hired an orchestra for one of the dates, and Short cut a total of 27 songs for what was supposed to be a two-record set. Atlantic seems to have reconsidered the economics of such a package, however, and the resulting album, Sing Me a Swing Song, was a conventional single disc, with the rest of the tracks going into the vault. It was only much later that Short persuaded Atlantic to go public with the remaining material on this album, Nobody Else but Me. But from a musical standpoint, it didn't make that much difference whether this album appeared in the late '50s or the early '70s. Great changes may have taken place in the world of popular music in general, but not in the classy nightclubs of Manhattan. Beginning with two songs on which he's joined by his rhythm section of Ismael Ugarte on bass and Sonny Rivera on drums, and ending with three songs featuring the orchestra conducted by Phil Moore, with seven songs in the middle on which he accompanies himself on the piano alone, Short turned to his usual favorites for song choices (i.e., the great songwriters of the interwar period) including composers Harold Arlen, Noël Coward, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Arthur Schwartz, with the likes of Coward, Porter, Howard Dietz, Dorothy Fields, Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Lorenz Hart, and Ted Koehler providing the words for him to sing. The trick here was that, while the names of the songwriters are familiar, most of the song titles were not. Short rummaged around lesser Broadway and Hollywood musicals for forgotten songs that had much of the melodic and lyrical sparkle one associates with the great songwriters, but none of the overuse. He sang them in his usual forthright style, never leaning too hard on meaning or sentiment, but moving along to the next witty phrase or catchy bit of melody. This is an album that sounds like it's full of classics, even though most listeners won't have heard most of the songs before. ~ William Ruhlmann
$12.99

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

For his fifth full-length Atlantic Records album, Bobby Short looked back 30 years to create a genre exercise titled The Mad Twenties. It turned out to be a wonderful evocation of the 1920s that restored that roaring decade's sense of musical abandon. Short, always a bravura performer, was abetted by appropriately jazzy Dixieland-style arrangements by conductor Phil Moore and a small horn-and-rhythm band that knew the music and played it with the right spirit. The instrumental passages were full of the sound of the jazz age, and Short was completely in the spirit of the music as a vocalist, even affecting a croon on "Sweet So and So" and "I'm Bringing a Red, Red Rose" as if he were Rudy Vallée singing through a megaphone in his Ivy League tones, and plaintively handling the recitation in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" as if he were Ted Lewis smiling through his tears. Such performances bespoke a thorough understanding of the style of '20s pop and jazz music. This was no attempt to update an older style, unlike so much of '50s light pop; Short re-enlivened the '20s by playing its music with the irreverence and verve with which it was played originally. It was hard to imagine what record buyers of 1959 could be expected to make of the album, but on its own terms, it was terrific. ~ William Ruhlmann
$11.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

$10.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

My Personal Property is Bobby Short's album of songs written by pop and show composer Cy Coleman, all of them except the title track with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh. Short is a longtime musical friend of an earlier generation of similar writers such as Cole Porter, Noël Coward, George Gershwin, and Rodgers & Hart, but he proves just as compatible with Coleman, if not more so. Coleman got his start in Tin Pan Alley, penning standards like "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "Witchcraft" before moving to Broadway with the musicals Wildcat ("Hey Look Me Over") and Little Me. His jazzy, upfront style and strong melodies are perfect for Short's forceful interpretative style, and Leigh's sly, witty lyrics are equally appropriate to a singer used to wringing every humorous nuance from Cole Porter. Short has learned to vary his approach over the years, not playing and singing flat out on every number, and that allows him to be delicate and precise on "I've Got Your Number," for example, without any loss of power. The piano-bass-drums arrangements are augmented by a couple of conga players here and there, to good effect. Coleman has had some important interpreters, including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, but Bobby Short is worthy of such company, and he demonstrates that Coleman is worthy of the company of the classic songwriters he usually covers. ~ William Ruhlmann
$10.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Bobby Short went five years without recording in the mid-'60s as the British Invasion swept all before it. But his Town Hall concerts with Mabel Mercer in 1968 led to live duo albums that brought him back to record stores, and his residency at the Cafe Carlyle in New York gave him renewed cachet. Thus, he returned to the recording studio for Jump for Joy, which he performed with the usual trio of himself on piano and vocals, Beverly Peer on bass, and Richard Sheridan on drums. For once, the purveyors of the Great American Songbook were absent: no Porter or Gershwin or Rodgers. Instead, Short performed a combination of recent songs from Broadway and old, bluesy numbers. The latter seemed to draw the greatest enthusiasm from him as he revisited some tunes he might have played in Midwest roadhouses back in his youth, songs like "Romance in the Dark," "I'm Confessin' That I Love You," and the newly trendy "If You're a Viper," an ode to marijuana use. The inclusion of such a song was a sort of backhanded acknowledgement of the times, and like other middle-of-the-road entertainers during the '60s, Short also sifted through the work of contemporary writers for suitable material. He found it in Randy Newman's "Simon Smith & the Amazing Dancing Bear" and Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Whoever You Are I Love You," the latter drawn from the Broadway musical Promises, Promises. Short also drew from other recent stage shows, plucking "I'm Glad to See You've Got What You Want" from Celebration by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt of The Fantasticks fame, as well as "I Cannot Make Her Jealous" and "Just for Today" from Ervin Drake's Her First Roman. Of course, the title song was taken from Duke Ellington's 1941 musical. This was not material on a par with the songs Short had sung on past albums and that he was known to play every night at the Cafe Carlyle, and his singing had begun to take on a huskier tone after decades of nightclub work. But even second-drawer Short on record was welcome after so many years away. ~ William Ruhlmann
$8.99

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

"The man has been utterly forgotten," writes annotator Barry Singer of lyricist Andy Razaf, an oversight Singer was to redress in 1992 with the publication of his biography, Black and Blue: The Life and Lyrics of Andy Razaf, but even before Bobby Short recorded this tribute album, Razaf was gaining prominence through the use of his songs in a series of all-black Broadway revues, starting with Ain't Misbehavin' in 1978. As songwriters go, composers tend to be better-known than lyricists, and performers tend to be better-known than non-performers, which is why Razaf's frequent songwriting partner, composer/performer Fats Waller, vastly overshadowed him. (Razaf also wrote with the likes of James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake.) But his songs, notably "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'," became standards. Short, leading a nine-piece jazz band with four horn players, including Marshall Royal and Harry "Sweets" Edison, performs those two hits and a collection of others in his inimitable supper-club style. He is careful to add the infrequently performed introductory verses to many of the songs, giving a sense of context and teasing the listener before the familiar refrains kick in. Razaf not only had the sophistication of Short favorites like Cole Porter, he was not above tweaking his famous white competitors, notably here in "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid," which provides the "downstairs" equivalent of an "upstairs" Cole Porter focus on the rich. But whatever the listener does or does not know about Andy Razaf, this is a superior collection of songs from the '30s and '40s, performed by a master at bringing out all their nuances and pleasures. ~ William Ruhlmann
$11.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

$11.49

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

$15.49

Crossover - Released June 30, 1975 | Rhino Atlantic

In a sense, Bobby Short was only doing what he'd been doing for decades when he recorded a double LP of Cole Porter songs in 1971. But somehow, the reaction was different. The album actually spent a couple of months in the pop charts in the late winter and early spring of 1972, and its comparative commercial success "made me think for a moment that I'd actually become a recording star," he later noted. He hadn't, but he had consolidated his status as the premiere cabaret performer of his time, holding forth every season from the elegant Café Carlyle on New York's Upper East Side. Porter had always been a constant in his shows and recordings, but this album was something special, a collection largely made up of the songwriter's more obscure efforts, including three unpublished songs -- "By Candlelight," "Once Upon a Time," and "Why Don't We Try Staying Home" -- as well as the usually unperformed introductory verses to many songs, such as the witty compendium of historical figures that introduced "Just One of Those Things." Of course, not all the songs were winners, but they all had the sparkle of Porter's wit, which was brought out effectively by Short's smooth tenor, well-placed emphases, and precise pronunciation. Porter was the voice of wealth and sophistication in interwar show music, and Short's interpretations rendered his sentiments with just the right combination of zest and humor. Thus, the public may have responded more to this Short album than to others just because he had played to his strengths more than on any other effort. ~ William Ruhlmann
$12.99

Crossover - Released April 19, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

After three albums of piano trio music with only the occasional added instrument, Bobby Short was given a somewhat expanded budget for Sing Me a Swing Song by Atlantic Records. The label paid for a six- or seven-piece horn section, along with a four-piece rhythm section, for two-thirds of the tracks. That still wasn't a big band by swing era standards, but it made the album the most musically varied of Short's career so far. Phil Moore's arrangements didn't make extensive use of the extra musicians, restricting them mainly to background color, but the fuller sound allowed Short to step back a bit as a vocalist. On earlier recordings, he often sounded like he was still in a club trying to bellow over noisy diners, but here he often sang more smoothly. The selection of material also added to the set's diversity. There was the usual complement of Cole Porter titles, but also the bluesy Duke Ellington songs "I'm Checking Out, Goombye" and "Rocks in My Bed," and the Marx Brothers novelty "Lydia." As usual, Short sold the lyrics unabashedly, but instead of competing with the horns, he worked with them well, especially on Porter's "For No Reason or Rhyme," which really made use of them for expressive purposes. It was enough to make you wonder what Short might accomplish with strings. ~ William Ruhlmann
$8.99

Crossover - Released April 19, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Bobby Short's Moments Like This has something in common with the ballad-heavy concept albums of Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. "In selecting the songs represented on this album," he writes in the liner notes, "[producer, arranger, and conductor] Dick Hazard and I decided upon the moody, late-night material saloon singers like myself are apt to explore when the frenetic excitement found during the early hours of an evening out has given way, for most lovers, to the calming promise of what may lie ahead." Referencing his career as a nightclub entertainer, Short suggests that these are the kinds of performances that might be reserved for the looser, winding-down late set instead of the more uptempo early one. But the difference between this collection and, say, a Sinatra album like No One Cares, is that while ballads and minor keys abound, the lyrical content doesn't all point in one direction.. Romance rules, of course, but Short seems to alternate between contentment and despair, between, for example, Cole Porter's "I Am in Love" and the song that follows it here, Irving Berlin's "Say It Isn't So." Hazard employs a full string section to add feeling to the arrangements, and such jazz figures as Harry "Sweets" Edison and Plas Johnson poke their horns in here and there, but the core of the sound is still the rhythm section of Short, bassist Beverly Peer, and drummer Robert Scott. As ever, Short revels in the lyrics, enunciating perfectly and over-singing somewhat, as if he's fighting to be heard over the conversation at the Café Carlyle. That is his established style, by now, and even on these sometimes understated tunes, he employs it to satisfying effect. ~ William Ruhlmann