It is that time of year again, which means that Steve Tyrell, for his 7th consecutive Café Carlyle holiday engagement (Nov. 29-Dec. 31), is dispensing his charm and American Songbook repertoire in the elegant supper club setting. His theme, appropriately, is “This Time of the Year,” and much of what he sings is included on his forthcoming CD titled “I’ll Take Romance” (Concord Records), to be released in February.
As evidenced on opening night, handsome Tyrell on stage means lots of bobbing heads, finger snapping and toe tapping in the audience. His approach is to sing the hell out of a song, and with his six-piece band at full throttle, the room is filled with rich sounds and intense rhythm. A key to Tyrell’s enduring popularity is his ability to connect with his forthright delivery in the tradition of singers that he has admired, such as Sinatra and others he salutes as influences.
He also projects a relaxed, down-home Texas manner with occasional background information or amusing comment. For example, he prefaces his emotional rendition of Joe Seneca’s “Talk to Me” with an observation that talking romantically is an old-fashioned idea. “Today it would be email me or send me a tweet, baby,” he muses.
He is unabashedly the fan of much of what he sings, for example calling “(I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons” by William Best and Deek Watson, “one of my all time favorites,” and he sings it as if he means it. He does a strong “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and puts feeling into “The Way You Look Tonight.” The beat is infectiously insistent when he delivers “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
Tyrell wisely allows plenty of room for his musicians to shine, which adds strength and satisfaction. His band includes Quinn Johnson as pianist and musical director; Bob Mann, guitar; Kevin Winard, drums; Ed Howard, bass; Jon Allen, keyboards and percussion, and David Mann, saxophone and flute.
Tyrell includes holiday numbers such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which he handles traditionally. He says he’ll include more holiday selections as it gets closer to Christmas. Is that a promise or a threat? Leaning too much on the holidays, despite the “This Time of the Year” theme, could make the program too syrupy. Tyrell is at is best when he enthusiastically give his all to the American Songbook standards that express the romantic impulses that he can convey with his trademark affability. Reviewed at the Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, Madison Avenue at 76th Street. Phone: 212-744-1600.