Crossover - Released November 19, 2012 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

The success of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which opened at the Nederlander Theater on Broadway on May 12, 1981, and ran 333 performances, until June 30, 1982 (Horne's 65th birthday) was a cumulative one. Horne had been performing in nightclubs, theaters, and casinos for 40 years, singing many of the same songs she sang at the Nederlander, but somehow the Broadway context and her perseverance combined to make this more than a glorified club act. Horne had the benefit of being an artist who had faced adversity (particularly, the vicissitudes of being an African-American star in Hollywood in the 1940s) and, if not triumphed, at least persisted, so that, as she reached her golden age, her struggles within the entertainment business could be seen as heroic. And, she was still at it, which made her, in the nomenclature of the time, a "survivor." That earned her gales of applause from theatergoers who had made the journey with her and from new fans who were too young to remember her and were discovering her anew. The show made some attempt to at least trace the outlines of Horne's career from being a Cotton Club chorus girl in the 1930s to a movie star in the '40s. After a clutch of initial songs, an announcer made a Cotton Club announcement, and there was a short dramatic scene featuring several other performers who gave Horne a breather by doing a few numbers. Otherwise, she periodically interrupted the run of songs for personal reminiscences about her career as introductions to songs with which she was associated from her movie and previous Broadway musical appearances. The bulk of the show, however, was given over to her typically moving interpretations of classic songs by Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, and others. Among the new material, there was an emphasis on songs about endurance and self-reliance, in keeping with the overall theme, notably the Jim Croce hit "I Got a Name" and Paul Williams' "Life Goes On," both of which were turned into showstoppers. But then, the show was one showstopper after another, and a fitting capper to a great career. ~ William Ruhlmann

Crossover - Released February 24, 2012 | Mediatone


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

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

Crossover - Released December 8, 1989 | Rhino Atlantic


Crossover - Released February 14, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic


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

Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic


Crossover - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic


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

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

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