double play: Dawn Upshaw sings Rodgers and Hart (Nonesuch 7559- 79406-2)

Edward Seckerson and Stephen Johnson compare notes 'Upshaw's abandon, the touch of euphoria in her delivery, makes a great song come alive' 'Ella Fitzgerald made us all aware of what Upshaw lacks: urban dirt, pain and zest for life'

It is hard, no impossible, to imagine this same artist currently singing Handel at Glyndebourne. The transformation of voice and manner is so complete, and so unassuming. Dawn Upshaw will tell you that it's all a question of style, that every note she sings comes from essentially the same place - give or take a few minor adjustments. Like bringing the head voice right down and adding plenty of chest to the mix. The point is, it doesn't really matter how she does it - she does. And these lovable songs warm to her touch.

She starts with the kind of rarity that she and her collaborators love to spring. And you thought you knew your Rodgers and Hart. "He Was Too Good to Me" was cut from their 1930 show Simple Simon (a little like cutting "Tonight" or "Somewhere" from West Side Story) but remained a personal favourite, one of those long-lined Rodgers melodies that somehow knows it has a future. "Nobody's Heart" (their last great ballad, from By Jupiter) and "Little Girl Blue" (from Jumbo) - are set in poignant juxtaposition, the one drifting back and forth from the other. And if you've ever wondered if there might have been a moment, a specific moment, when Rodgers's melodic voice first began to take wing and soar, then consider "A Ship Without a Sail" (from Heads Up!, 1929) - what forgotten treasure that is.

But you can hear and feel Rodgers's music gain resonance through his association with Hart: from their first hit song - the brashly ingenious "Manhattan" (starting as it meant to go on with that audacious Manhattan/ Staten couplet) - to their last great ballad. They were a team, modern-day Savoyards - Rodgers's "holy" music (at least, that was Cole Porter's assessment), Hart's caustic rhymes, the sentimental and unsentimental in head-on collision. They had wit, wisdom, and countless new ways of saying "I love you" in 32 bars. Just listen to the second four-bar phrase of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" - if yearning has a signature tune, this is it. And then the middle-eight with its melodic leap of faith into the lines "grand to be alive, to be young, to be mad, to be yours alone" - Upshaw's abandon, the touch of euphoria in her delivery, makes a great song come alive in such a way that even she can't match it elsewhere.

Even so, the pleasures are manifold: three Dawn Upshaws singing for their supper in that chirpy point number from The Boys from Syracuse (delicious vocal arrangement, clever multi-tracking), Fred Hersch's exquisite piano accompaniments on "I Could Write a Book" and "It Never Entered My Mind", Eric Stern's musical supervision. This isn't just another happy excursion, a diva's day off from the "serious" business of operatic and Lieder pursuits. Upshaw believes in these songs as fervently as she believes in Schubert or Schumann. Hell, in Tin Pan Alley terms, they are Schubert and Schumann. ES

When classical singers take to Broadway, the results are usually cringe- making. It still astonishes me that anyone could be seduced by Kiri te Kanawa's matronly cooing in Bernstein's "I Feel Pretty" - or is that just another depressing example of what a name will do for sales? Thankfully, Dawn Upshaw is different. The voice is pure, not grandly cultivated, and she has had this kind of music in her blood from very early on. The results are always pleasingly natural, and put her in a song that really suits her, like the wistful "He Was Too Good to Me", and you can believe she was born to it. It's the same with "Nobody's Heart Belongs to Me"; if this isn't the perfect "Little Girl Blue", she'll take a lot of finding.

Sensibly, Upshaw has stuck with the sweet, longing mood for most of this, her second Broadway disc; evidently she has realised that raunch isn't her metier, so nothing like "Jenny's Song" (from the hugely successful I Wish It So) this time. It's invariably charming and stylish and when she sings about turning Manhattan into "an isle of joy", it can be surprisingly touching - New York transformed into something like the Mahlerian "child's view of heaven". But in a number like "Sing For Your Supper" the innocence jars - whatever the bird is singing for, it certainly isn't milk and cookies.

Perhaps I shouldn't have listened to Ella Fitzgerald the day before, but she made us all the more aware of what Upshaw lacks: urban dirt, pain and zest for life. Dawn Upshaw's view of Broadway is a lot of nice things, but I'm not sure "sexy" is one of them. SJ

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas