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Body and Soul
Baby Jane Dexter - Elizabeth Ahlfors

Baby Jane Dexter

The Metropolitan Room 
Body and Soul
Baby Jane Dexter
Musical Director/Pianist: Russ Patterson 
November 26, 27, December 9, 16, 2016.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Baby Jane Dexter - you just can't keep this dynamo down. At the Metropolitan Room, she is "Getting Some Fun Out of Life" (Joe Burke and Edgar Leslie) presenting the audience with her new show, Body and Soul. Multi-award winner, Dexter joins her music director, Ross Patterson, delivering her renditions of music with passion and heart -- and always fun.

Although her voice is powerful enough to fill any arena, Dexter sings with the intimacy that is cabaret. With total immersion, she explores life, love, and emotions gained and lost. Yet, through her show runs a deliberate strain of optimism that shines brightly as her smile. While she tears your heart out with a stunning pairing of Randy Newman's blues feel in "Guilty" leading into "I'm A Fool to Want You "(Jack Wolf/Joel Harron/Frank Sinatra), a rendition seeped with desperation, she turns to face the sun with the get-up-and-get-on-with-it attitude of Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields' "Sunny Side of the Street."

Dexter is emotionally charged. Now in a wheelchair, the energy is as palpable as ever with her music charged from within. After "L.A. Breakdown," she draws a blanket of despair around her with the title song, "Body and Soul" (Edward Heyman/Robert Sour/Johnny Green) and we huddle there with her. It is impossible to separate emotionally from a Baby Jane song, even as it sears with heartbreak. The songs tell her story and the era of popular music is open for her inspection and delivery. The lineup of songs is always meticulously chosen to weave a tapestry of life's emotions. She chooses "Great Big Baby" by Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf from the ragtime era and finds a mid-century hit song called, "Hurt" (Jimmie Crane/Al Jacobs). From the Big Band era, she delivers to her listeners the romantic side of Ziggy Elman and Johnny Mercer's upbeat dance classic, "And the Angels Sing." ("You smile and the angels sing/And though it's just a gentle murmur at the start"). After "Reckless Blues," Dexter swerves into the popular Gershwin standard, "They Can't Take That Away From Me."

Toward the end of the show, she declares, "I Won't Cry Anymore" (Al Frisch/Fred Wise) and follows that with a winsome, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" (McHugh and Fields). She ends joyfully with a soaring, "Zing, Went the Strings of My Heart" by James F. Hanley.

With the magnetic Ross Patterson at the keyboard, a Baby Jane Dexter show is invincible, always believable, always compassionate. Like the title of one of her previous shows, Baby Jane Dexter is The Real Thing. A must see.

 


It's Personal
Baby Jane Dexter - Elizabeth Ahlfors

Baby Jane Dexter

The Metropolitan Room 
It's Personal
Baby Jane Dexter
Musical Director/Pianist: Russ Patterson 
November 21, 28, December 4, 2015.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors


With reminiscences of good friends, battles with health and a fierce commitment to sing her songs, Baby Jane Dexter did just that in her new show, It's Personal.  This most honest of performers sings to express her love for the audience, sharing the music that means something to her, lyrically and melodically.  Every song in her rich, deep contralto with a tempting tremolo aims to communicate and inspire.  In this show, her opener, "I'm in Love Again," was an offering of love for the audience and her ending anthem, "Everybody Hurts," struck with such truth that all defenses came down.

No one is like Baby Jane Dexter.

She was accompanied by the piano mastery of longtime partner on the keys, Russ Patterson, who supports her with stunning subtlety and exciting artistry.  Her eclectic songbook was a careful mix of insight and humor through songs by old favorites like Abbey Lincoln ("Painted Lady"), Aretha Franklin's hit, "Do Right Woman" and "House of the Rising Sun" that was replete with the last scraps of hope.  "Everyone is Gay" was a witty tongue-twister and the arrangement of "Blue Moon" was spare and thoughtful. "How Can I Be Sure," a 1967 hit tune, sounded all too true today. 

Contrary to some critics, she stressed that she is not a blues singer and took "Birth of the Blues" on a journey of her own.  "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" soared with confidence, her voice rangy and her spirits high.  

With thoughts of her good friend, the late Julie Wilson who died several months earlier, Baby Jane's encore was haunting, "For All We Know" leading into the power of "Everybody Hurts," this anthem that never fails in its inspiration and understanding.