Hilarity and Honey Buns
Your friendly correspondent is still recovering from the onslaught of hijinks and hilarity at the first night of the DUCHESS Fall Residency at 55 Bar . You may know some or all of these ladies above (Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, and Melissa Stylianou) from their solo careers, or the many times they have sung together in pairs. You might surmise, even without having experienced DUCHESS live, that you would really like this sort of thing. You would be right in assuming that the swinging tunes arranged expertly by Oded Lev-Ari, played by this incredible band (Michael Cabe on keyboard, Paul Sikivie on bass, Matt Wilson on drums, and Jeff Lederer on saxophone), and sung by the ladies in question, are bound to please the ear and get the toes a-tapping. What you could not guess, is the level of "hijinks" the group delivers.
These folks look nice enough, but your friendly correspondent to fill you in: they're a kooky bunch.
There were plenty of plain old swing-the-seat-off-your-pants-moments over the course of two sets, starting with Peggy Lee's "Love Being Here With You", and on through "Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears", and "Humming to Myself", and the Boswell Sisters arrangement of "Heebie Jeebies". Quite a few in attendance got misty over the ladies' renditions of "I'll Be Seeing You", "P.S. I Love You", and the double ukelele/melodica arrangement of "Que Sera, Sera."
Basically, DUCHESS had the crowd at 55 Bar in the palms of their hands, whether delivering a forthright ballad, or whilst pulling out a kazoo from a rather unconventional storage spot on her person (Melissa) for a tiny solo that left the trio in such fits of laughter, they were almost unable to continue singing.
There were many moments of onstage zaniness (some so saucy, that your correspondent may have blushed a bit). Hilary Gardner and Amy Cervini may have blushed a bit, too, when Melissa "lei'd" them with colorful beads during Matt Wilson's thrumming Second Line intro to "Lollipop", mashing up the Hawaiian and Mardi Gras traditions. At which point, Hilary may have exclaimed "I'm not taking my top off for you" to Melissa, but your correspondent can't be entirely sure.
And then, there were the Honey Buns. As the story goes, Matt Wilson, whilst driving in Connecticut, happened upon a billboard advertising "Duchess Honey Buns". Oded Lev-Ari (arranger, producer, mastermind of DUCHESS) wasted no time, purchasing a case of said "Honey Buns"
DUCHESS routinely crowns someone in the audience as "Fan of the Day", and on Thursday, two lucky people received the moniker, along with a sweet treat each.
All told, the first installment of the DUCHESS Fall Residency at 55 Bar was swinging and laughter-filled. The remaining dates are as follows (all shows 7-9pm, No Cover):
- Wednesday, Sept. 17
- Thursday, Oct. 2 & Wednesday, Oct. 15
- Thursday Nov. 6 & Wednesday Nov. 19
*You'll likely see your friendly correspondent at one or all of these shows, as she has a serious sweet tooth, and is hoping to acquire one of those honey buns!