Words About Baby Jane


 

 

TimeOut New York December 18-31, 2008

names Baby Jane Dexter to top 10 The best cabaret of 2008

 

"Baby Jane Dexter: If...  Metropolitan Room, November

Dexter dominates a song like a biker mama with a long road behind her,

equal parts kick-ass and wise."  Adam Feldman, cabaret writer

 

 

GO news,  British Columbia

TIMES COLONIST  /  timescolonist.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2009

 

BEST OF JAZZ

 

Big Apple favourite takes pop to the cabaret

 

Fun tunes from Baby Jane Dexter / a surprise from hit maker Patti Page

“IF” (www.babyjanedexter.com)  Quannacut

 

Baby Jane Dexter has been a fixture on the New York cabaret scene for decades,

And this recently released CD, recorded before an audience at the Metropolitan

Room, demonstrates why she’s such a Big Aple favourite.

     Dexter’s big, brassy contralto is a perfect instrument for her singular interpretations of a non-traditional cabaret repertoire that includes songs written by

Lucinda Willoiams and L.A.. punk Hoobastank, as well as the Gershwins and Rogers and Hammerstain.

     Her mid-set reading of South Pacific’s Ordinary Couple and This Nearly Was Mine is the heartbreaking centerpiece to an evening that also includes a riveting version of Harry Nilsson’s Remember and a thrilling reading of REM’s Everybody Hurts.

     Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Bette Midler, and Sophie Tucker come to mind, as Baby Jane plows through soft and swinging renditions of great old chestnuts and newly shaped pop tunes.  Her anecdotally rich, playfully rambling introductions are almost as much fun as her singing, and that’s saying something.  This is cabaret singing at its best. - Joseph Blake

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John HoglundTheatrescene:  Baby Jane Dexter: IF ...

To many, the art of cabaret can be summed up in just three words: Baby Jane Dexter.

It has been written, the true measure of any singer's worth is in the eye of the beholder. One person's Ella is another's Liza. In short, there's no magic formula to becoming one of the great ones. All one can do is be dedicated, truthful, have a willingness to experiment and keep it real. Enter Baby Jane Dexter and her explosive must-see new show, “If ...” currently running at Metropolitan Room at Gotham. It also helps if the performer is a visionary who can also entertain.

In this set, conceived and directed by Elissa Paterson with Ross Paterson as musical director and Boots Maleson on bass, she takes on a more structured, more complex and, ultimately, more encompassing journey that asks a plethora of serious and silly questions. - all based on one word - if. It is arguably her best outing to date. The hour is filled with pearls you won't find in any other show – anywhere. From Broadway, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Kander and Ebb pole dance with hot tunes by Lucinda Williams, David Clayton Thomas, the Gershwin's and even a fun ditty from “Pinnochio.”

She opens prophetically with words to a song by Hoobastank, a post grunge California rock group: “ I stand before a road that will lead into the unknown ... I'll take the first step of a million more ... at least I'm moving forward... ” The tone is set. It's positive. It's optimistic. It's questionable. Mostly, it makes a statement about what could have been, what might have been and - what will be. It's also a little shuddery as the mystery starts to unwind. Her pronouncement is reinforced with Williams' profound “Side of the Road” and a haunting “Remember,” by Harry Nilsson which is one of the hour’s sterling offerings that casts a pensive, reflective image that lingers.

Having long ago validated herself as a hip interpreter of appealing, more obscure material, Dexter sings about “ Lessons, so many lessons, you think I'd know by now ... questions, so many questions ... I need answers to somehow ... I don't want to spend every day of this life I live asking myself what if?” from Williams epistle on life's meanderings. Therein lies the visceral root of her show as it repeatedly returns to the singular query – what if? You will not find such a chasm of emotion on any other stage in cabaret. That's probably because few singers know themselves better than Dexter. Besides, what singer could pull all that off with such verve? As always, Dexter opts for substance over style. The results are a streaming waterfall of emotions that complicate as much as they command.

By the time she segues into a musical trilogy starting with, Kander and Ebbs' “I Don't Remember You” from “The Happy Time,” followed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein's gem, “Ordinary Couple” from “The Sound of Music” and culminating in a trenchant “This Nearly Was Mine” from “South Pacific,” she has unleashed a trunk load of tempered tremors unequaled in an intimate boite since the likes of Mabel Mercer and Nina Simone, two very different albeit revered ladies of song who reinvented lyrical delivery to stamp their unique brand on it and make their mark. It might have been a funeral dirge in lesser hands. This scene, incidentally, also might have been even more effective in the important eleven o'clock slot. But Dexter makes it work seamlessly as it unfolds at a Julliard master class level in tempered storytelling that graduate students should be required to observe if only to savor such a tornado of sentiment fused with a lack of sappy melodramatics. Other highlights include a sassy “Ain't Nobody's Business If I do” (Grainger-Robbins) and a melting “Why Did I Choose You?” (Leonard-Martin.)

In the final analysis, Dexter serves it all up with unwavering optimism that runs a gamut of emotions unseen since Garland first sang “The Man That Got Away.” It's that good. And, like Garland, she's in great voice. Through it all, the audience is entertained at a high voltage level that smokes. Dexter has come a long way since her return to the business in 1990. This is no self-absorbed diva turn attempting material she has no right going near. This is a caring, wise artist at the zenith of an awesome cabaret career that shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the newly svelte Dexter, who has lost considerable poundage and taken on a glamorous look, is in better shape and voice than ever.

Ross Paterson's sizzling arrangements are about as flawless as it gets and full of imagination by this gifted musical artist. Bassist Boots Maleson hits his stride on several solo riffs that are standouts. At times, their heavy hands threatened to drown out Dexter until some needed technical adjustments were made on opening night. Director Elissa Paterson deserves credit for structuring a complicated song list into something so diverse in this risky, non-traditional cabaret set.

Whatever your musical tastes, Dexter can be eclectic and Gotham chic. She can be real and imperfect at the same time. She can sweep the audience up in the current of whatever wave she's riding on and make them feel lost in the moment without making them feel the remotest bit removed. They are a part of her world; her past, present and her future. It is an accessible world filled with blood, sweat and fears from a conduit with a lot to give. It is also a world not to be missed and only avoided if you ant to miss one of the greatest talents in cabaret today.

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Baby Jane Dexter: If
December 01, 2008
By David Finkle
Although Baby Jane Dexter called her recent Metropolitan Room foray If, she may have settled on a misnomer. The uncertainty implied by the title doesn't seem the imposing contralto's primary stance. Indeed, she began with expressions of absolute certainty on Hoobastank's "Moving Forward" (Dan Estrin-Doug Robb) and Lucinda Williams' determinedly independent "Side of the Road," wherein the song's first-person narrator informs her lover of a need for alone time.

To be sure, Dexter included several selections in which dubiety figures, most emphatically the Bonnie Bramlett-Gary Cotton "What If," the Will Holt-Gary William Friedman "If I Had a Million Dollars" from The Me Nobody Knows, and the Leslie Bricusse-Cyril Ornadel "If I Ruled the World" from Pickwick. But the thrush, now 70 pounds lighter and a shadow of her former sylph, has never been a gal to waver over what she thinks goes and what doesn't. Yes, there's an if in " 'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do" (Porter Grainger-Everett Robbins), but there was no if in a steamroller delivery that garnered cheers when the last do was sustained for a stretch that Ethel Merman would have envied.

On a few items, Dexter did become ruminative, perhaps most notably on South Pacific's "This Nearly Was Mine" (Oscar Hammerstein II-Richard Rodgers), which she paired with the duo's "An Ordinary Couple" from The Sound of Music. But even then she infused the lyric with a staunch acceptance that lent an unusual strength to it. On the perverse Fred Ebb-John Kander ballad "I Don't Remember You" from The Happy Time, she was downright authoritative. No if either in her beg-off number "Everybody Hurts (Michael Stipe-Bill Berry-Mike Mills-Peter Buck), which is becoming a signature tune for her because she conveys the painful but honest message so unflinchingly.

An abidingly intriguing facet of Dexter's onstage persona is that it's split between the singing, which sounds as if it's coming from somewhere near the earth's molten core, and the chatter, which seems to be randomly skittering off her bouncy brain. She never gives the impression she's editing herself. Quite the opposite — whatever occurs to her to say, she says. "Don't interrupt me," she warned a patron and explained that anyone who knows her understands interruptions are a huge mistake. She will, however, interrupt herself during the intros she's planned — at least loosely. One story about her at 5 years old entertaining construction workers with an impromptu ditty was only the beginning of the spoken hilarity. God knows what director Elissa Patterson makes of this, other than to wave it on. Music director Ross Patterson must be more or less used to it, although bassist Boots Maleson may not be.

There is, it seems to me, a certain uncertainty to Dexter these days, which is confined to her vocal prowess. I've been listening to her since her days at Budd Friedman's Improvisation some 35 years ago or so. It may be that my ears are playing tricks on me, but I'd say she no longer has quite the power she had then. That she lost track of lyrics twice during the set I heard means nothing, but the difficulty sustaining some notes is new to me. She's always taken deliberate liberty with melodies as well, but sometimes now I'm not convinced all the liberties are deliberate.

Still, when she sings "Hold on" at the end of "Everybody Hurts," she holds on with facility. No matter what, our Baby Jane continues to move forward, and it's kinda amazing.

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Songs of Speculation, Found in Unlikely Places

By STEPHEN HOLDEN

Published: November 13, 2008

To hear Baby Jane Dexter, a cabaret singer with a mountainous contralto, plow into the early-’90s R.E.M. hit “Everybody Hurts” is to rediscover a rock ballad transformed into an all-purpose anthem in the mode of inspirational war horses like “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The plain-spoken emotional directness of that ballad makes it something of an anomaly in the catalog of R.E.M., a band known for elliptical lyrics and droning melodies.

Ms. Dexter, who made “Everybody Hurts” the encore in her new cabaret show, “If ...,” at the Metropolitan Room on Wednesday evening, had sung it before, but never quite like this. Accompanied by Ross Patterson’s pounding rock piano and Boots Maleson’s bass, she shaped the song into an increasingly urgent cry to “hold on,” as though she were pleading with a desperate friend not to jump off the roof.

“Everybody Hurts” was the high point of a show many of whose songs revolve around suppositions, memories and fantasies: “If I Had a Million,” “If I Ruled the World,” “This Nearly Was Mine.” The theme was spelled out with her performance of the Bonnie Bramlett song “What If?” — whose lyrics declare, “I don’t want to spend every day of the life I live asking ‘What if?’ ”

Ms. Dexter has always specialized in choosing worthy out-of-the-way songs. In addition to “What If?” the stronger numbers on Wednesday’s opening-night show included Lucinda Williams’s “Side of the Road” and Harry Nilsson’s “Remember.” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Ordinary Couple” from “The Sound of Music” was joined to “This Nearly Was Mine,” to suggest picture-perfect domesticity longingly observed from the outside.

The bluntest of singers, Ms. Dexter delivers lyrics in big, hearty bursts of energy. She gets into trouble only when she tries to apply musical frills. When she sings too high or too softly, her voice begins to wobble and crack. But when belting in the expansive chest voice that dominated Wednesday’s show, she exerted a formidable command.

Augmenting the songs were anecdotes, one of which recalled her experiences in “Hair,” for which she auditioned 13 times, finally making it into the chorus. Returning after a month’s break during which she traveled to Spain, she was shocked to discover she was barely remembered. In “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee,” an outlandish fantasy of the actor’s glamorous life from Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio,” she found the perfect offbeat number to complement this tale of punctured show-business expectations.

Baby Jane Dexter continues through Nov. 29 at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, Flatiron district; (212) 206-0440, metropolitanroom.com.

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Reviewers searching for ways to describe the cabaret singer Baby Jane Dexter often use words like “garrulous” and “bawdy.” True, one hears traces of every barrelhouse belter from Lizzie Miles to Belle Barth in her blue-tinged Big Mama baritone, but since I first became aware of this formidable performer at old, defunct clubs like Eighty-Eights and the Firebird, I have rarely witnessed so profound a change in an artist’s style and repertoire. The refined folks who prefer soft, subtle, smoky voices like June Christy, Peggy Lee and Julie London may find her an acquired taste. God knows, she’s no Blossom Dearie. She’s not even a blossom. A full-bodied tiger lily is more like it. But what she does with what she’s got is pure dynamite.

Glowing and radiant and several pounds lighter than when I saw her last, she is in better shape than ever, both physically and vocally. Her choices in material still reflect too many pop-rock ballads that sound like dirges to my ears. Too many mediocre wastes of time about wondering what might have been, taking the wrong roads through life, and asking “What if?” “I want to feel the touch of my own skin against the sun and against the wind,” she cries. Oh, get over it. But singing them all in a deep, powerful basso profundo, she grows on you, like ivy. Without much analysis, I have come to realize it’s not the songs she sings that counts; it’s the way she sings them. And she’s obviously in love with lyrics. She sings so many songs I never want to hear again that when she throws in a beautifully modulated classic like “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific, it almost comes as a shock to the nervous system. But this is happening more and more. She now trusts herself enough to follow the tiresome “Spinning Wheel” with Kander and Ebb’s “I Don’t Remember You.” With the help of her eclectic pianist-arranger-music conductor Ross Patterson, she even surprises with great time and tempo on a rowdy, finger-snapping version of “T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” that Nellie Lutcher would envy. The patter rambles. She talks about landing in Hair after 13 auditions. She talks about having 17 teeth capped without novocaine. Not always mesmerizing. But she always bounces back, holding her audience in the palm of her hand with passion and a personality warm as sable. Her intensely felt “Why Did I Choose You” is unlike any version I’ve ever heard. She used to fear the great American songs sung by the great American song stylists. The Great American Songbook was not her Bible. Now she’s freer, surer of herself and feeling more comfortable in her own skin. Never before could she have tackled the Gershwins’ “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” with a spin so unprecedented. And she does it all with a humorous heart and a smile wide as the Mississippi. She holds court for another week at the Metropolitan Room on West 22 Street. If Baby Jane Dexter is an acquired taste, it’s one I have cultivated joyfully.

Rex Reed – NY Observer

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The Palm Beach Post

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

MUSIC REVIEW

New slants on old standards

______________________

Dexter inhabits a

cherished favorite

and makes it new.

______________________

 

     By SHARON McDANIEL

      Palm Beach Post Music Writer

   Candy Man has always enjoyed a carefree innocence.  The gentle melody swings; the beat is so up,

it's almost giddy.

   But when cabaret star Baby Jane Dexter gets her hands on it, off comes the polite, sunny veneer.

She homes in on the lyrics, illustrates them with a few detailed and well-calculated movements.  And

the light traipse through a hallucinogenic jungle.  The drama is often dark, but not completely.  Dexter

can't resist side trips into the cynical and the comedic.

   To hear Dexter is to get real, then go deeper:  Friday night, she plunged thye Royal Room into swift

currents of pop, R&B, songbook and gospel for her return to The Colony Hotel.  Her new show, You're Following Me, also the title of her new live CD, leads listeners into life a la Dexter:  the joys,

sorrows, recoveries and discoveries.

   She also sang the title songt by Bacharach in a show based on the ups and downs of love -- who's really got who, anyway? -- and other self-inflicted obsessions (there are always ice cream and chocolate, aren't there?).

   Best of the up side were Kern's Only Make Believe and Noble's The Very Thought of You.  The

down side crashed in seismic waves:  Dexter became her most volatile in Damn Your Eyes; she

bowled you over with a wrenching Precious Pain (Etheridge).

   Dexter uses her large contralto voice to set moods and to treat the words with utmost respect.  It's a

voice that creates images and stretches as far as possible for the perfect effect.  It allows for a fast in-and-

out of many songs, each a meticulous mini-scene.  And she's got a smoking' low D that'll knock you back

against your seat.

   It she's less able to caress long lines or float ethereal high notes, so be it.  But then, you're there to hear

her play by her rules -- including reinventing iconic songs.  She's half in and half out of the score for Some

Enchanted Evening -- her improvised version is even more emotive.

   The Everly Brothers launched All I Have to Do Is Dream; Dexter gave it new depth with her own tempo and phrasing.  Barely a thread of the original You Really Rot a Hold on Me remained in her updated style.  And

her compositional powers were right on.

   If her new Fools Rush In (Mercer) had the fervor of an anthem, her finale, Forever Young, had the prayerful

conviction of gospel.

   Baby Jane Dexter's show continues Friday and Saturday at The Colony Hotel's Royal Room, 155 Hammon

Ave., Palm Beach.  Doors open for dinner at 6:45 p.m.; the show starts around 8 p.m.  For reservations __

$90 dinner and show, $50 show only with $15 beverage/food minimum -- call (561) 659-8100.

 

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JAZZ TIMES MAGAZINE

June 2008


 You¹re Following Me! (Quannacut)

If the word ³cabaret² conjures images of satin-gowned chanteuses and
tuxedoed gents trilling sophisticated, slightly salty tunes, then it¹s time
to shake things up. The best antidote to those old-school,
cocktails-and-candlelight perceptions? Baby Jane Dexter. The gutsy New
Yorker with a voice as big as all outdoors and a style that¹s equal parts
Ethel Merman, Mama Cass, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland and Sophie Tucker has
been working her unique brand of raucous magic at various Manhattan clubs
and theaters on-and-off for more than three decades.

Time has mellowed the let-it-all-hang-out Dexter a wee bit‹enough that this,
her second live album (following the aptly-titled, decade-old Big, Bad and
Blue Live!) is constructed as much of velvet as it is of buckram. Whether
thundering through Leon Russell¹s ³Superstar,² wailing on Leiber and
Stoller¹s ³Love Potion No. 9,² gently navigating the soft folds of Kern and
Hammerstein¹s ³Make Believe² and Ray Noble¹s ³The Very Thought of You² or
constructing a brilliantly funny, self-deprecating tale of chocolate
addiction around the Bacharach-penned title tune, one truth rings out:
Dexter is, both personally and professionally, a savvy survivalist. Which
makes her brand of entertainment arguably the most compellingly,
refreshingly honest there is. - Christopher Loudon

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YOU'RE FOLLOWING ME – Davenport's, Chicago

 

CHICAGO READER
October 4, 2007

Critics Choice,
BABY JANE DEXTER

The centerpiece of Baby Jane Dexter's new show, You're Following Me, is a medley of songs from three distinctly different eras:

a playfully sambafied version of "Love Potion No.9," an achingly slow reading of the Cotton Club classic "Wail of the Reefer Man," and

a sly, sultry rendition of "Candy Man."  A mainstay of New York's cabaret scene off and on since the 1970's, Dexter is equally comfortable

in the realms of pop, musical comedy, blues, and R & B.  Her eclectic program ranges from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Lennon and McCartney,

from Leon Russell's gospel-tinged "Superstar" to the rollicking boogie-woogie original "Ring Baby Ring."  An extra-large woman with a voice

to match (her raspy also and resonant low range invite comparisons to Bessie Smith, Etta James, Odetta, Judy Hensky, and Janis Joplin), Dexter

grounds her musical variety in a simple but intense commitment to lyrics.  Whether she's teasing the feline sensuality of the old Peggy Lee tune

"Sneakin' Up on You" or floating through Melissa Etheridge's poignant "Precious Pain," she explores obsession with passion, humor and gutlevel

honesty.  See also Friday and Saturday.
*8 PM, Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret, 1383 N. Milwaukee, 773-278-1830
$20                                                                                             -Albert Williams

TimeOut Chicago 
  October 4-10, 2007

MUSIC  Jazz & experimental
Baby Jane Dexter - Davenport's 8pm, $20

Her emotional vulnerability is the only thing babyish about Dexter, who can break your heart in a single line. 
You can't do that if you don't know the song ten ways to Sunday, and Dexter gives you all the fun you could ask for on a Saturday night
(her weekday shows will likely be fun, too!)

 

When listening to Baby Jane Dexter, you find yourself sitting right in the middle of her life. A lot has gone on to bring her to this place you're sharing with her: relationships, disappointments, "crutches" made of smoke and chocolate, and she's willing openly talk about it through her music.

Exposing her wide-ranging influences, Baby Jane dips into classic stage numbers, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, pop and little know gems from the past. The themes are specifically chosen with the purpose of expressing loves travail: the heartache and pain, -the coping, and finally, the hope of feeling that "zing" again; as foolish as she may feel that it may be to want it.

Her voice also tells us a story about where she's been and who she's all about. At times there is a soulful, sultry tone to her rich alto that is reminiscent of a Cissy Houston and at other times there is a lushness that overflows from her lips like a Taylor Dane. We can surmise that the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Melissa Etheridge have influenced her music and that singers such as Angela Motter, Elaine Delmar, and Judy Garland were also instrumental in touching Baby Jane=s life.

With a sensitivity for the arrangements and the venue, George Howe adds another layer of sophistication to Baby Jane's performance. He masterfully supports and nurtures the relationship between the audience and Baby Jane from the piano as she expresses herself through cabaret.

Together in the intimate setting that is the "backroom" at Davenport's, Baby Jane Dexter with George Howe as Musical Director will leave you wanting to hear more.

 

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YOU'RE FOLLOWING ME – Metropolitan Room

 

"...the very best act of her career...heartbreaking enough to knock your socks off!"

                                                            Rex Reed, The New York Observer, Feb.14, 2007

 

"...Ms. Dexter has the power of a mighty gospel singer with the will to move heaven and earth!"

                                                            Stephen Holden, The New York Times, Feb.20, 2007

 

"In a tidal wave of raw emotion, Baby Jane Dexter has brought her latest and possibly finest outing to the Metropolitan Room at Gotham!"     John Hoglund, Theater Scene.net, Feb.16, 2007

 

"If you've got the balls to join a red hot mama on a collision course with raw emotions, she'll leave you feeling stronger and more alive than you did when you walked in!"

                                                             James Gavin, TimeOut/NewYork, Feb.15, 2007

 

"...Shooting sparks...a memory of make believe...I was doubly swept by emotion!"

                                                             Jerry Tallmer, Chelsea Now, Feb.16, 2007

 

 

"Baby Jane-- the Emeril of cabaret.  Each show she 'kicks it up another notch?!'?

                                                             Stu Hamstra, Cabaret Hotline, Feb.12, 2007

 

"With her voice richer than ever...combined with her story-telling ways with a lyric, the effect is riveting rightness!" 

                               Peter Hass, Cabaret Scenes, Feb.8, 2007

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Holding court at the hot new Metropolitan Club (through Feb. 24), Baby Jane Dexter reminds me of colored lights, forbidden absinthe, and big brass beds.  If she'd lived in the New Orleans red-light district in a previous era, she would have been the most popular white girl in Storyville. Her specialty is hot-foot barrelhouse and wrist-slashing blues, which she wails like nobody's business, and her fans lap it up like howling hound dogs, hungry for more.  I always liked her raucous style, but I never expected to hear standards from the Great American Song Book in her repertoire.   On this, the very best act of her career, she's finally discovered classics by Kern, Hart, and Johnny Mercer, too.  And I'm happy to report that her lived-in baritone gives them a personal spin as unique as it is intense.  On Make Believe, she phrases behind the beat.  On Some Enchanted Evening there's no beat at all.  She doesn't even follow Richard Rodgers' melody.  But she makes you feel the subtext of the emotions hiding in Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics.  She sings a Harold Arlen song about a reefer man, a Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley song about a candy man, and a Lieber-Stoller song about a Love Potion Number 9 with equal grit and aplomb.  She also tells about her own 12-step program to overcome a fatal addicton to--- frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity. Simply hilarious.  Then, without a bathroom break, she wafts dreamily into a rapturous Fools Rush In, heartbreaking enough to knock your socks off.  The best way to appreciate her unusual musical candor is to stop resisting her and give in.  Baby Jane just kind of overwhelms you.  And bless her pointed head, she does not sing My Funny Valentine.  On The Town With  Rex Reed, N.Y. Observer

 

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Think of a deep, strong rolling river of song, carrying you with it. Add sparkling, sun-dappled highlights of a piano - and you come close to Baby Jane Dexter's singing, with Ross Patterson's accompaniment, in Baby Jane's new show, You're Following Me! at the Metropolitan Room. With her voice richer than ever, Baby Jane delivers powerful, swooping musical lines that sometimes, purposely, take license with the originals, peppering her songs with the unexpected. Combined with her story-telling ways with a lyric, the effect is riveting rightness. Ross Patterson, Baby Jane's long-time musical arranger and accompanist, has now brought in Steve Doyle on bass and David Silliman on drums; the trio's rhythmic platform, with its own highlights, lets Baby Jane take off and soar. Continuing, subtle changes in lighting, via Jean-Pierre Perrault, contribute neatly to keeping a one-woman show from appearing static. Presenting a mixture of standards, show tunes, 60s songs and other material, Baby Jane - with her irrepressible good nature and sense of humor - continues to offer one of cabaret's best evenings. Peter Haas, Cabaret Scenes

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Having attended Baby Jane Dexter's Time Travel (A retrospective,) on its opening night when it first ran at the Hideaway Room at Helen's in November 2005, I decided to revisit the show last week to view the live recording event at the Metropolitan Room and simply enjoy it without taking notes. I remember it was filled with great material performed by one who isn't capable of not being the real thing. Besides, since I am broadening my easel into the world of producing live recordings, I was curious. After all, this room has turned into the major event of the cabaret season with a promising future ahead.

Before I hit the door, I was engaged in a lengthy conversation with Joy Behar about the late Bistro Bits columnist Bob Harrington waxing about how much a Back Stage review meant to her when she was just getting started. Nice. She had just hosted her new children's book release party at the club and a sea of people were causing a traffic jam in front of the club (including a fleeting Bette Midler trying to make her exit unnoticed.) BTW: Earlier, at the book party, Midler was overheard asking Baby Jane, "Didn't we play this place ages ago??") Dexter laughed and told her old pal, "It just opened a couple of months ago!"

Once inside, we were finally seated and the evening's star made her way to the stage greeting well-wishers along the way. Once the room fell silent, Dexter slowly began the melancholic, words to For All We Know (Lewis-Coots,) and then segued into a sizzling Until the Real Thing Comes Along (Holiner-Nichols-Chaplin and Sammy Cahn). The room erupted into what would be the first wave of spontaneous applause and cheers that was ongoing. It was only the beginning of what would be one of those truly extraordinary nights that only happens once in a blue moon in a cabaret setting. A night that cabaret was once so full of in all the clubs. The ovations (and there were many) were led by Julie Wilson, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano among many visiting press types along with fans and many

familiar faces in the crowd. Adding to the pastiche, like a scene straight out of Follies, was the stunning Karen Akers who would later recall the days when they were back at Reno Sweeney in the mid-'70s.

After a few hiccups in her professional and personal life, Baby Jane Dexter has climbed the ranks in the clubs, found a new voice (after a long hiatus) and juxtaposed a waning career into one of the single most beloved and in demand night club artists of our day. While she may seem like the last of a dying breed of singers from the school of greats like Sylvia Sims and Blossom Dearie - Dexter remains without peer in a confusing world of wannabes, monied dilettantes and newcomers who need to experience one of her shows to know what the real thing is really about. At a time when many are seeking a new ambassador or a new voice to save cabaret from expulsion, the best example out there, by far, is this gravely voiced contralto with the huge heart whose status cannot be ignored. That is not to say that others aren't also in the mix of those climbing the ranks. But Baby Jane Dexter proved with this one sold out show that the magical journey from Reno Sweeney to that night last week was worth her lifetime of blood, sweat and tears. she is raw. She is bold and beautiful in a way that we may never see again in our times. By the time she closed and sang her own version of More, one of several closing numbers, most of the room was on its feet with those up front reaching out to touch her, much the way Garland's audience once did at her concerts. This scene was a first for me in cabaret. It was reassuring, it was life-affirming and it was moving. Whatever else is wrong with cabaret today is fixable and replaceable. But there is only one Baby Jane Dexter. And that's all there is to know.
--John Hoglund, October 12, 2006, BACK  STAGE

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In the world of cabaret, where the adjective “legendary” with a singer’s name means as much as “touchy” with “tenor,” BABY JANE DEXTER sings in a realm all her own. From early Broadway classics to the day-before-yesterday pop standards, this baby has been belting since she first made a splash back in the ’70s. Think Rita Coolidge meets Rosemary Clooney, with a dollop of Janis & Lady Day. Don’t expect soft crooning: Even in the tiny back room at Helen’s, a hole-in-the-wall tucked into Chelsea’s Eighth Avenue Strip, she sings to the (nonexistent) balcony. After battling myriad health and personal problems, Dexter is the classic comeback kid. This is what New York cabaret is supposed to be—and all too often isn’t: a highly personal journey of a performer who makes you believe you’re the only other person in the room. Steve Weinstein, NY Press, April 2006

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Having a good voice is only a small part of what's needed to be a good singer, especially when you're singing in intimate venues. 

    From the moment she begins her show singing For all we know we may never meet again in a haunting, raspy baritone, Baby Jane Dexter wields an eerie power and glory rarely found on a cabaret stage.  She has the uncanny ability to unearth new meaning in evergreens and to personalize torchy ballads with a sense of hope.  There are few people in cabaret capable of expressing such depth of feeling; Julie Wilson quickly comes to mind.  Dexter, a cabaret and blues titan, roared back into the Hideaway Room @ Helen's with her red-hot new show, 'Time Travel,' in late November and is still performing weekends through January.  It is a retrospective that includes one of the best song lists of the year in one of the best shows of the year, with the remarkable Ross Patterson as arranger and musical director.

    Dexter sings a mix of R&B and jazz-fused stylings of songs written by the diverse likes of Abbey Lincoln, Sammy Cahn, Tom Waits, Clint Black, and Bistro Award winner Eric Hansen.  Hopelessly honest, gunny, and often deeply poignant, she can be sassy one minute and break your heart the next in this electric show that has turned into one of the must-see events of the season.  Dexter has her audience in stitches recalling her first paid gig.  She opened for a stripper on Long Island who had a rubber snake burst out of a G-string.

    Aside from the new gems, Dexter has thrown in requested songs from the past associated with her career.  Among the highlights are Hansen's 'Big Bodied Woman' and Patsy Moore's gorgeous 'I Remember.'  She brings inner peace to Tom Waits' 'San Diego Serenade' ('I never heard the melody till I needed the song').  'Spend My Time' (Clint Black-Hayden Nicholas) echoes the desperate heartbreak of then and now by one who has lived it.

    A master at cutting to the bond of a song, she is able to pour real bitterness into the pop-blues genre without embalming the material with faux mourning.  These same songs can be and have been interpreted as melodramatic dirges; in Dexter's hands, the past may have had some bumps but the future paints a rainbow.  Regardless of what the naysayers natter about the state of cabaret, with Baby Jane Dexter (and a handful of others who know what they're doing) it doesn't get much better. Go!

 

John Hoglund, Backstage Bistro Bits, January 26 - February 1, 2006

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Abbey Lincoln's great folk-jazz song "Throw It Away" revolves around the phrase "You can never lose a thing if it belongs to you." Those words go a long way toward describing the spirit conveyed by Baby Jane Dexter, the blues-oriented cabaret singer who performs the song in her new show, "Time Travels," at Helen's.

For more than three decades, but with interruptions, Ms. Dexter, the leonine singer with a rough, hefty contralto, has been toiling in the cabaret vineyards for minimal reward. Songs like "Throw It Away" and "I Got Thunder," another Abbey Lincoln song in her program, evoke the kind of courage, independence and faith it takes to keep singing out while hanging from a ledge by your fingernails.

In one amusing monologue, Ms. Dexter recalls her very first singing engagement at an Italian nightclub in East Islip, N.Y., opening for a stripper named Brigitte who wore a trick G-string out of which shot out a rubber bat. (Ms. Dexter had expected the headliner to be someone like Vic Damone.)  Her pay then - $50 - was not much better than it is today, she half-joked.

A large, blunt woman, Ms. Dexter may not be demure, but she is tasteful in a smart, regal, big-mama way, and she gets better each year. Her choice of well-made but often obscure soul, blues and jazz songs that play to her contradictory mixture of the lusty and the philosophical is astute. And her emphatic phrasing puts these songs across as life lessons offered in a tone of good-humored authority. No matter how down and out a song's sentiments, Ms. Dexter conveys the resilience of someone who looks for a silver lining while still bracing for the worst.

By her side is her accompanist of 14 years, Ross Patterson, who does his impressive best to turn the piano into a one-man blues and soul band. Someday it would be a treat to hear that piano augmented by a bass and drums, an addition that would give Ms. Dexter's singing the rhythmic kick it deserves.

– Stephen Holden, NY Times, December 2005

Baby Jane Dexter performs Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 28 at Helen's, 169 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; (212) 206-0609.

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Baby's Breath

When Gail Sheehy wrote her best-seller Passages in 1974, she was talking about life, not cabaret.  But putting aside the belief that life is a cabaret, it may be that there are passages in cabaret as well as in life.  If so, Baby Jane Dexter is a prime illustration of them.  There were the early years, the retreat and regrouping, the exciting return.

Now there's the autumnally burnished incarnation.  Which is to say, the current Hideaway Room @ Helen's run represents a no less thrilling career stage but a stage noticeably altered.  Baby Jane Dexter of the booming voice of the train-approaching belter configuration is no longer.  Or at least she's not front-and-center.  A changed, evolving Baby Jane Dexter is on display.  Whereas previous BJDs were always quirkily philosophical in both song and patter, the quirky philosophy is now the manifestation of a more ruminative, older-but-wiser troubadour.  "You just never know when things are going to come clear," she sums up at the end of one of her folksy, subtly enlightening anecdotes.

The voice may be the reason for the re-thinking.  Maybe not.  But it's definitely changed.  Still a commanding and joyful rumble in the lower register and acceptably secure in the middle register, it's frayed in the upper register, not so much gravelly as pebbly.  There are even numbers where, like a bigger-boned Mabel Mercer, she speak-sings, For Every Man There's a Woman (Leo Robin-Harold Arlen), for example, or carefully marshals her breathing the For All We Know (Sam M. Lewis-J. Fred Coots) opener.  Well-known for her volunteer work, she's now offering nicely-couched advice for all by way of her never-obvious song selections.  Room for outright fun remains, though, as evidenced with the extended, digressive Dirty Man (Miller, the song list partially specifies).  Yup, Baby Jane Dexter is the same but different, and hooray for that. -David Finkle,

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Ooh, Baby, Baby! 
Stop the presses! Baby Jane Dexter, one of cabaret's most ferocious divas, 
has mellowed. Much like a baseball pitcher who used to overpower the opposition 
with blazing fastballs but now dispatches batters with his accumulated wisdom, 
Baby Jane has gone from being a force of nature to a natural entertainer. If 
you don't believe us, check out her new show Time Travel at Helen's, which has 
just been extended through the end of January. 
 
The title references the fact that Dexter is revisiting songs from her 
critically acclaimed shows of the past, such as "I Got Thunder" and "Until The 
Real Thing Comes Along." New arrangements by her longtime musical director, Ross 
Patterson, allow her to offer fresh takes on these old favorites; her phrasing 
and tempos are subtly different, and there is the sense that her interpretations are being
filtered through her long career. When she sings "Throw It Away," another signature song, 
you know it's from the heart. Baby Jane is not living in the past; rather, she is reinventing herself for the future. 
 
Her patter, which has delighted some audience members and irked others over the past three decades, 
has also been toned down. It's still playful, but now there is something rueful in it. All in all, this is a gentler 
Baby Jane -- and this persona suits her perfectly.

--- Barbara and Scott Siegel, Theatremania, December 2005

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There's Ellis Island, Bloomingdale's, the Central Park Zoo, and Baby Jane Dexter. All are Big Apple landmarks, but only one would dare to transform the Rolling Stones' 19th Nervous Breakdown into a Jacques Brel ballad.

  Yes, we're alluding here to the enthralling Baby Jane, a beloved songstress who's been discharging tunes with her high-powered vocal chords from the times when there were hippies on St. Marks Place, Mayor Koch was a liberal, and Kathie Lee Gifford was kosher. Gay boys of a certain age still have her photos magnet-ed to their refrigerators, and no wonder. Just ask -The New York Times' Stephen Holden who once proclaimed: "Baby Jane Dexter may be the most talented singer within a time-honored genre of cabaret performer."

  Currently letting loose at Helen's-one of the best new cabarets in town, which serves, by the way, a mean veggie burger with crisp fries-Baby Jane is having an intimate blast with her fans.

  The act, which can also be brought on home on her new CD, Baby Jane Dexter Bootlegs Herself, begins with the aforementioned Breakdown and ends with Love's Been Good to Me.  In between, there's a memorable cover of the Young Rascals' How Can I be Sure, a convincing They Can't Take That Away From Me, and an instructive Be Cool. - - Brandon Judell May 12, 2005

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The tender side of night

Baby Jane Dexter shows her softer, gentler side at Helen’s Hideaway

By JERRY TALLMER

And the lioness shall lie down with the lamb. Baby Jane Dexter, the downtown diva, has always been a great many of God’s creatures wrapped into one, but in her current show at Helen’s, just to the left of the Joyce Theater, on Eighth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, the roaring, stomping lioness is playing peekaboo, popping in, popping out, but mostly letting that other side of BJ take over the thoughtful, sensitive, aching, probing investigator of emotional loss and gain.

Even her great flaming mane has been tamed, transformed, into a long, gleaming, lovely pony tail, as if by the magic of some Jean Cocteau ‘belle et bete’ hairdresser.

Don’t look for that frightening, disturbing 15 Ugly Minutes on the Bottom of the Floor, her long-ago personal memoir of an even longer-ago rape. Just delight in the segue from a gutbucket Sophie Tucker/Texas Guinan ‘Some of These Days? (‘Did you leave me? It will grieeeeeve me.’) to the dark brooding honey-smooth flow of ‘I Concentrate on You, Cole Porter’s hunger a la Dexter.

Or a seesaw jaunt from a Gershwins’ classic, ”They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” to Hoagy Carmichael’s down-home “Bread and Gravy”
rendered by the lioness side of BJ so as to restore real meaning to the words ‘rock’ and ‘roll.’
Don’t think for a minute she’s lost her sense of humor, the offbeat, unpredictable stuff that is pure Baby Jane, like her tale of finding behind the piano in her apartment,which has had so many paint jobs, it’s getting smaller, a 10-year-old sackful of yellow crime-scene police tape. Why? Who knows?

Speaking of pianos, Dexter gives Ross Patterson, her music director these past 14 years, every possible opportunity to go crazy on the keys. They are a remarkable pair. And lioness or lamb, Baby Jane Dexter is one of a kind, a force of nature for fury or for reflective calm. She will be at Helen’s, formerly Judy’s through May 28, and the gig is now also available as a “Bread & Gravy” CD. – Downtown Express, May 13 – 19, 2005

 

"Oh, Baby!  

     In her most compelling and risky  show to date, Baby Jane Dexter contorts to such extraordinary emotional heights, she may well be called the Cirque du Soleil of cabaret. Like a twisted torso configured high above the audience, she twists and rotates every nuance with the grace of a high-wire walker - or the desperation of a woman who's spent too much time alone in an empty room.  

  In this sensational  show, "Bread & Gravy," running on weekends at the Hideaway Room's Helen's through December 18, Dexter  fuses the music of Joni Mitchell with the likes of R. E. M., Rod McKuen, Cole Porter, the Gershwins and the Rolling Stones among others. A blues belter of Olympian proportions, she brings stormy resolution to a world shattered by loss and loneliness through her songs. In the end, her message is one of hope. But the journey getting there is as shattering as it is euphoric. This makes the trip one of overwhelming emotion.

  Returning to her jazz and r & b roots, Dexter echoes a breed of performer we may never see again. She's a blues mama who can sound guttural and still break your heart. This she did with a sizzling, ragtime "Good Old Wagon" (John Henry,) made famous by Bessie Smith.  Joni Mitchell's rarity, "Two Grey Rooms," may be the most definitive song of loss and obsession ever written. Cole Porter's 1940 "I Concentrate on You," pulsates with emotion. Dexter, singing better then she has in years, inhabits every lyric with the same emotional commitment that Sinatra was famous for. Musical director Ross Patterson's arrangements are rhapsodic and jazz tinged. The end results are the season's most rewarding show that should not be missed by anyone who wants to see how to get it right - albeit on the cabaret stage or the stage of life. Go!" - John Hogland, Backstage Bistro Bits, December 2004

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Mike Joyce
Washington Post, March 8, 2004

"You missed the loud and good part," cabaret vocalist Baby Jane
Dexter told a latecomer at the Rosslyn Spectrum on Saturday night.
But there were more loud and good parts to come. Dexter belted out
songs with such old-fashioned gusto that the venue's sound system,
when it was working properly, seemed rather redundant.

Despite amplification glitches and a disappointing turnout, the
concert revealed Dexter's abundant charm and power, to say nothing of
her far-reaching repertoire. The challenge of performing songs
associated with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Frank Sinatra, Randy Newman,
Abbey Lincoln, Joe Cocker, the Beatles, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and
Josh White is something few singers would welcome. Yet Dexter loves
to juggle genres and moods. She gets a kick out of toying with
audience expectations, juxtaposing classic pop tunes with Top 40
favorites, vintage singalong novelties with something slow and quiet
and bittersweet. Though she's obviously a sucker for brash
showstoppers, Dexter is also drawn to poignant meditations, and she's
capable of extracting deeply felt emotions from even the most
shopworn lyric.

Her current show, developed with pianist and longtime collaborator
Ross Patterson, could use some tightening between songs -- more
anecdotes and fewer rambling asides would help. Patterson served as
both sensitive accompanist and one-man orchestra, creating elegant
backdrops for the ballads and animating some of the up-tempo tunes
with a delightfully percussive and rollicking keyboard attack.

 

Although the local press has kept this one of the best-kept secrets
in D.C., Baby Jane Dexter will be giving a concert at the Rosslyn
Spectrum Theater across the river from Georgetown at 1611 North Kent
Street on this Saturday night at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and,
unfortunately, plenty are still available. I was advised that there
is no need for reservations. Just showing up at the box office is
required, and there is free parking a block away. Although Baby Jane
has at least one quite outspoken non-fan here, many of us admire her
work, including Our Own Audrey Morris, who saw her perform in Chicago
several months ago and said she was terrific. I hope the locals will
turn out to welcome her. – joel siegel

TimeOutNewYork : recommended

November 25 - December 1, 2004

Baby Jane Dexter:  Bread and Gravy
The Hideaway Room @ Helen's, 9:15pm. $25

The lusty roar of a revivalist in full cry, the lion's mane of streaked blonde hair, the never-say-die message of hope---all this comes in the imposing figure of Baby Jane Dexter, one of the more acclaimed cabaret singers of the past 30 years.  Her new show, Bread and Gravy, combines Bessie Smith, the Stones, Porter, Gershwin and Rod McKuen.  Dexter connects with each song on a visceral level, challenging you to feel what she feels; if you've got the balls to join a red-hot mama on a collision course with raw emotion, she'll leave you feeling stronger and more alive than you did when you walked in.

“Ms. Dexter, a singer who takes pains to defy expectations both in her choices of material and her interpretations… She is a natural rock-blues belter who restrains her impulse to shout, the better to explore a song's interior… In her new show, which plays Thursdays through Saturdays through Dec. 18, every song Ms. Dexter and her pianist, Ross Patterson, choose is given a fresh slant. Whether it's an emotionally vulnerable rendition of Sophie Tucker's theme song, "Some of These Days" or the Rascals' 1967 hit, "How Can I Be Sure?" the associations crusted on songs we think we know are scraped away to reveal undiscovered facets.”  Stephen Holden, NY Times.  November 2004
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BREAD & GRAVY
Hideaway Room at Helen's
 A force of nature has hit the stage at Helen's. Big, powerful, beautiful and witty, Baby Jane Dexter isn't your diminutive girl singer. The minute she walks out, rearranging the audience before she starts her show, one knows this will be an evening to remember!
This was an evening mostly about hearing new songs, or old, familiar ones, done in new exciting ways. Ross Patterson has provided Baby Jane with arrangements that are unexpected and that give the audience deep glimpses into new meaning and new awareness of these songs. From the very first song, the Jagger/Richards 19th Nervous Breakdown, one heard, probably for the first time, the lyrics and the story within this rock classic.
There was a haunting sadness in Joni Mitchell's Two Grey Rooms, about someone retreating from life to watch a great love from afar. Baby Jane later described as that urge one has to spy at someone from behind a tree. Later in the show, Baby Jane showed another side of Joni Mitchell, outlining the ways to Be Cool. Two other contemporary pop songs to receive these inventive arrangements by Ross Patterson were the soul classic, How Can I Be Sure and John Hiatt's country-style ditty, An Arm and a Leg.
And yes, there were the songs from the Great American Songbook, but done in new ways that required the listener to hear them in different ways, finding new meanings, new shading, almost making them new songs. There was a jazzy, uptempo They Can't Take That Away From Me, a melancholy Some Of These Days with He Was Too Good To Me woven into it, a high energy Strayhorn classic, Imagine My Frustration and a joyous Carmichael song, Bread and Gravy, in which Baby Jane determined life is better with "a lot of gravy". In Baby Jane's hands, along with Ross' incredible arrangement, Cole Porter's I Concentrate On You became a slow, powerful ballad which found Baby Jane lingering on the lyrics, forcing the audience to listen, to hear, this song in a fresh way.
During the evening, Baby Jane used the metaphor comparing life to searching for lost keys, one often finds things that one is happy to find, and sometimes things that should have stayed "lost". There were many things I was happy to find in this show, and nothing that should have stayed lost!
Baby Jane closed her evening with Rod McKuen's Love's Been Good To Me, a deeply moving song which brought tears to my eyes. Later, Baby Jane told me she was thinking of the same person I was thinking about while she sang this song. For her encore, she sang her signature power ballad, Everybody Hurts.
As Baby Jane sang in Comes Love
Comes rain, put your rubber on your feed
Comes a snow, you can get a little heat
Comes love, nothing can be done”
So comes Baby Jane, and everything IS done, and done extremely well! I highly recommend seeing this show, now scheduled to run through December, at Helen's Hideaway Room in Chelsea.”  -- MN nyc.com. 
November 15, 2004

 

Entering The Hideaway Room at Helen’s to premier her new show, Baby Jane looked around, saw that the audience was scatter-seated a long the sides and back of the room, and stopped in her tracks. “No!” she boomed! “I can’t sing like that! Come closer!” Whereupon clusters of the audience took their drinks and moved to seats nearer the stage. Such is Baby Jane’s rapport with her audience, and its deep affection for her, that when she speaks, we pay attention. When she performs, we listen even more attentively: her strong singing, smoother and more lyrical than ever; her interpretations of familiar songs that give them new texture; and the rich arrangements provided by musical director Ross Patterson (whom Baby Jane labels “totally ridiculously wonderful”) all combine to provide a riveting show. Her rollicking, rolling rendition of the GershwinsThey Can’t Take That Away From Me, quite un-Astaire, makes you hear the song as if for the first time; ditto for her slowed-down, gutsy version of Some of These Days and her dark, rumbling reading of Cole Porter’s I Concentrate On You. Her blues can’t be beat, such as J. Henry’s Good Old Wagon and Rod McKuen’s Love’s Been Good To Me. Among other writers represented: Hoagy Carmichael, Joni Mitchell, Rodgers & Hart and Mick Jagger. Baby Jane’s show is called Bread & Gravy, and subtitled — in Baby Jane’s typical style of joking and being deeply serious at the same time — “a lyrical journey … backwards through a life of love, loss, and figuring it all out.” Figuring THAT out may take time; a better use of it is to hustle on down to Helen’s to catch Baby Jane in one of the year’s grandest shows” -- Peter Haas, Cabaret Scenes, November 2004

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"In her exceptional show at Arci's Place, four-time MAC Award-winner Baby Jane Dexter takes you on a vivid emotional journey. The 16 songs she sings have been chosen and sequenced so that the whole evening is greater than the sum of its parts.
In her rich-voiced opener she generously promises: "I'll show you love, I'll show you everything . . . with arms wide open."
Later she sings, "I want a sweet, simple love."
But the next song ratchets up the intensity level, as her needs become more primal: "I want more," she proclaims repeatedly, a woman not to be denied. It's a high point of a wonderful show.
She lets us see her at her most vulnerable, pleading touchingly - via the Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington classic - for "Something to Live For."
And she is also the height of compassion, as one who's known the depths of despair and wants others not to give up (lest she herself give up). When she sings "Everybody Hurts" it's positively therapeutic.
Whether she's doing familiar old favorites or the little-known rarities that seem custom-tailored for her, Dexter sings with drama and conviction. You believe her.
In fact, when she's singing about someone she's dumping, her scorn and bitterness are so withering, it can get downright uncomfortable - you just might not want to feel that much negative emotion.
Ross Patterson, Dexter's pianist of 10 years, matches her moods as they shift from moment to moment. His commanding playing - always in rapport, and full of graceful surprises - is a model of what accompaniment should be."  Chip Defaa, NY Post,  Dec. 2001



"Can a singer be fiercely raw and finely polished all at once?  Cabaret singer Baby Jane Dexter is living proof of that possibility -- she combines the bluesy fire and grit of Janis Joplin with the sheer focal power and technique of an operatic alto.  Her new show at Arci's Place, With Eyes Wide Open, is named... for the hit by grunge rock unit Creed... She chooses between songs by  R.E.M. ands Bob Dylan... Rodgers & Hammerstein... Billie Holliday and Ellington/Strahorn... What she draws out from all of this material is the bluesy soul common to them all -- rock, Broadway and jazz all owe enormous debts to the blues, and when Baby Jane sings, it's payback time.  Jonathan WarmanHX Magazine.



"Hearing her hefty delivery in a blue-tinged contralto is a reminder of how out of style the sort of full-tilt rock singing at which Ms. Dexter excels has become. In a pop climate dominated by girlish voices and exhibitionistic belters who confuse melismatic overkill with depth, Ms. Dexter keeps things refreshingly blunt and earthy... As strongly as her vibrato suggests a lower-register echo of Ronnie Spector, her reach extends beyond rock to show tunes and popular standards, which she stamps with a strong personal imprint.
The high point of her new show is a medley of "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "Something to Live For," in which Ms. Dexter delivers lyrics into short, jabbing bursts, so that a line like "you don't know how lips hurt" takes on a accusatory resonance that captures the song's bitter essence. The rich, spiky jazz pianism of Ms. Dexter's longtime musical director, Ross Patterson, lends the medley an extra depth of feeling."  Stephen Holden, New York Times, Dec. 2001.



"The title of Baby Jane’s new show at Arci’s Place is titled With Arms Wide Open, but she communicates with her heart wide open. Expressive eyes that sweep across a cabaret room like high beams on a dark and lonely highway light the way to her soul, and she exposes that soul in one sensationally sung song after another. Though we’ve heard her in better voice than at the performance we attended, she sang with such ferocity that it hardly mattered... Baby Jane has a mighty appetite for the blues, and she makes you feel her pain when she sings “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” (Wohlford/Lewis). She has an even greater appetite for love, as demonstrated in her renditions of “I Want More” (Billie Holiday) and “Is You Is” (Austin/Jordan). While she is known primarily as a blues singer, her show is finally less about heartbreak and sorrow than it is about “Taking a Chance On Love”. Her version of that Duke/Latouche/Fetter standard takes its own chances with a playful jazz arrangement by her elegantly inventive musical director/pianist, Ross Patterson... In this show, Baby Jane puts her indelible and indomitable stamp on musical theater songs...  she brings a knowing and accepting ruefulness to a reading of “Hello Young Lovers” (also by R&H) that is shot through with romance. It’s lovely. Barbara & Scott Siegel, Theatremania.com, Dec. 2001



"Looking at a program, one might think the songs are familiar: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Hello, Young Lovers, for example, or Taking a Chance on Love. Forget it. These songs were never sung this way before. Baby Jane has an incredible ability to turn a tune into a seeming autobiography. Her audience doesn’t get to just listen; they share with her every experience. Billy Holiday’s I Want More was mesmerizing, casting a spell that even Holiday would have envied. And Baby Jane’s own Telephone Song, written with Drey Sheppard, is – like the vocalist herself – a knockout. If you miss this show, which is on until December 29th, you’ll kick yourself all through the New Year." Peter Leavy, Cabaret Scenes, Dec. 2001


"Never one to sit on a gossamer pillow of pop and patter, she is a stylist who combines elements of rock, blues and gospel to create a sound that is uniquely her own.  Her voice is a brothel of spilled bourbon, scratched mahogany and unsated desire... Dexter's singing is nothing less than storytelling.  And if a listener is willing to go there with her, she will take him on a journey that is exhausting and frightening, raw and visceral, yet wonderfully uplifting.  Without apologies or embarrassment, she will scratch off every layer of makeup and put-on to show a face that is an accumulation of suffering and regret.  She goes to quiet places by singing loud."  Wendell Brock, The Atlantic Monthly, April 2001.



"Attitude and manner, of one sort or another, are vital to anyone who steps onstage to entertain.  Baby Jane Dexter, who opened a six-night run at the Cinegrill on Tuesday....has plenty of both.
"Dexter's between-songs patter was supported by a colorful imagination and sparked by an ebullient personality. ..she demonstrated the versatility to cover all the stylistic bases."  Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times. 2001



"There are moments when the leonine singer Baby Jane Dexter wields her potent two-part voice with the force of a weapon. One part is a cabaret tragedienne whose booming contralto plummets to depths where few female voices are capable of going. The other is a raucous rock 'n' roller whose coarse vibrato spreads out (like Ronnie Spector's) into the vocal equivalent of a car zigzagging down the highway at 100 miles an hour.

Ms. Dexter knows exactly how to balance these two elements so that they compliment each other instead of conflicting. And in her new show, "Making Every Moment Count," which plays at the Firebird Cafe, 363 West 46th Street, Manhattan, through Dec. 30, even vintage popular standards by Rodgers and Hammerstein ("There Is Nothing Like a Dame") and Rodgers and Hart ("Everything I've Got") are pumped up with a cheeky rock 'n' roll zest.

Subtlety is not Ms. Dexter's forte. Every word out of her mouth has a blunt emphatic sense of purpose. One high point of her show is a full-tilt rendition of "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" that transforms a joyous movie song into an anthem ready-made for the Ronettes.

Digging into Randy Newman's abject ballad, "Guilty," a substance abuser's groveling confession of weakness and failure, Ms. Dexter brings out its lurking subtext.

Instead of a plea for forgiveness, she delivers it as a blast of defiance, an angry so-what, spit sarcastically in the face of a disapproving loved one.

The singer's gift for clarity also enhances Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," a versified riddle about self- possession and letting things go whose punch line observes, "You can never lose a thing if it belongs to you." Ms. Dexter gleefully and with great good humor embraces her own rawness. It belongs to her." Stephen Holden, New York Times, Dec. 2000.
 
 
 


"The incomparable Baby Jane Dexter made her Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret debut earlier this month in a dazzling show that surely ranks in the top 5 shows I have ever seen to date. To put it bluntly, I was utterly blown away by this dynamic woman with pipes of gold! ...
Each number seemed to top the previous one in this blockbuster piece of entertainment. Her patter was perhaps the most perfect I have ever heard from a cabaret performer. It was completely natural and never seemed too over staged, as she shared some humorous and some poignant stories from her life. She had no problem at all in tearing down the walls and opening up to the audience. " Todd Shuman, Cabaret Hotline, October 2001


 
 
 

"Dexter isn't about making pretty, soothing sounds; in the tradition of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Judy Garland, she unleashes a firestorm of raw emotions, challenging audiences to acknowledge and heal their own wounds. In the course of an hour, she can shatter your heart and then, by the inevitable encore, reassemble the pieces." Joel E. Siegel, Washington City Paper, Feb. 2000


"Ms. Dexter doesn't read songs phrase by phrase for their literary nuances. She locates their emotional centers and stays there. On occasion, as in Madonna's 'You'll See,' she discovers another dimension to a song. The depth of her voice and the slowed-up arrangement of the song uncovered a level of hurt that Madonna's comparatively bratty interpretation only hints at." Stephen Holden, N.Y. Times, Dec. 1999.



"After Baby Jane Dexter's wall-shaking interpretations of 'I Put A Spell on You' and 'Until the Real Thing Comes Along' at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival's fund-raiser last spring, her listeners reacted as they do not after 'Macbeth': they stood; they stomped; they screamed." Alvin Klein, N.Y. Times, Nov. 1999.



"Dexter's long-anticipated major solo concert debut brilliantly demonstrated her command over her audience, whether she was shouting the blues, pondering the mysteries of Abbey Lincoln's 'Throw It Away,' telling us with devastating comic timing how she planned to handle one 'dirty, dirty man' or just sharing her heartfelt appreciation for the loyal support cabaret audiences have shown her over the years...And she's never sounded better. Relying on (Weill) hall's natural acoustics...more of the beauty of her voice came through -- and the strength, as she'd hurl staccato lines like thunderbolts." Chip Defaa, New York Post, September 1998.



"Dexter gave more to her audience in this 90-minute (Weill Hall) concert than some performers do in a lifetime. Many in the audience were in tears as they leaped to their feet as she closed singing, "Forever Young." Then, in one of the evening's most poignant moments, fighting back tears, she sang Rod McKuen's gem, "Love's Been Good to Me," saying, as she whispered the final words, 'This is one of those moments.' It was." John Hoglund, Back Stage Bistro Bits, October 1998.



"Baby Jane Dexter may be the most talented singer within a time-honored genre of cabaret performer: the zaftig earth mother philosophizing about love and its sorrows....Ms. Dexter is impressive for her restraint and her respect for well-chosen songs." Stephen Holden, New York Times, Dec. 18, 1997.


"Ultimately, Big, Bad & Blue, Live! is every bit about the cabaret experience and its intimacy. Dexter bonds with her audience on many levels, practically introducing the SRO crowd to one another.. fueled by a brilliant sense of dynamics and emotive sensitivity....Dexter's performance is an emotionally charged, soul-stirring thing to behold." Mike Bieber, JAZZIZ, June 1998.



"Baby Jane Dexter's current gig at 88's, The Real Thing, will charge you up like an electrifying dose of romance therapy." Marisa Cohen, TimeOut, New York, Feb. 12, 1998.



"With a meticulously chosen, eclectic set of songs -- from some unlikely sources as well as the likes of Strayhorn/Ellington -- Dexter accomplishes what she always sets out to do: Create an emotional bond with her audience, a la cabaret, but via musicality rather than imposed anguish....Her songs are as much dramatic performances as they are pop music...It's tough to figure out which is more remarkable, Baby Jane Dexter's new show or the fact she isn't signed to a major label." John Anderson, Newsday, Jan. 1998.



"Everything she does is tackled so skillfully and with so much heart that my own heart caves in. Her repertoire consists of songs about falling in love, falling out of love, looking for love, doing without love, and feeling lousy about it. The themes are universal, the approach unique." Rex Reed. New York Observer, Jan. 1998.



"Baby Jane Dexter in The Real Thing --
Critics Choice
Best Bets
Three Stars
Patricia O'Haire, N.Y. Daily News, Jan. 1998.



"If you want to hear songs that haven't been done to death by everyone else, sung by a powerhouse whose belief in her material feels unshakeable, savor Baby Jane Dexter. Make your reservations now." Chip Deffaa, New York Post, Jan. 9, 1998.


"When God took Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ruth Etting, Helen Morgan...he gave us Baby Jane Dexter in return. If you doubt it, go hear what she does, just for one hair-raising instance...with the song that's the pivot of her current pile-driving 'intimate opera,' Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin's great old standard, 'Until The Real Thing Comes Along'." The Villager, Dec. 1997.


"For the best of cabaret without the worst of cabaret, you can't beat a night with Baby Jane...It's tough to tell which is bigger, her voice or her heart." Mitch Broder, Gannett Suburban Newspapers.


"Baby Jane Dexter: When she sings the blues, she not only tells it like it is, but -- where that funky woman-man thing is concerned -- she tells it like it's gonna be." The Village Voice.


"Every so often, given the average cabaret-going luck, a show soars across the footlights to strike you between the eyes and overwhelm your senses. One such blazing pageant of life and love is The Real Thing, Baby Jane Dexter's all-new show." John Hoglund, Bistro Bits, Back Stage, Nov. 28, 1997.


"Dexter seems no less persuasive whether applying all of her formidable, room-rockin' vocal power to lyrics or changing the pace with some subdued, intimate parlando bits. I like the control she has developed over her voice." Chip Deffaa, N.Y. Post, Nov. 28, 1997.


"This force-of-nature blues belter has become one of the most beloved performers in cabaret, and her last show at 88's ran a full 18 months...And now Baby Jane has just opened her new show, The Real Thing, reclaiming her position as Queen of the Clubs." Time Out, New York, Nov. 1997.


"Don't let the humor coursing through her show minimize her seriousness about the music she obviously loves. Don't think the pain she sings about is someone else's, either. This talented woman will be heard. Count on it." Michael Caito of The Providence Phoenix.


"I don't think it's possible to accurately describe Baby Jane's performance in words. You have to see her. You have to experience her." Julie Salamon, N.Y.Times.


"Dexter's idiosyncrasies offer further proof that cabaret isn't just a music museum, exhuming a closed canon of long-dead showtunesmiths. It's a living, breathing art form." Will Friedwald. Stereo Review.


"Baby Jane Dexter is an unconventional artist whose larger-than-life, blues-opera show is utterly irresistible." Nancy Ann Lee. Jazz Times.


"Dexter is still blazing away, pursuing her music path with guts and integrity. With this album ("Big, Bad, and Blue"), she has alot to be proud of." Bill Ervolino. The Record. NJ/NY.


"Dexter is a force of nature herself, a singer who throws herself, body and soul, into her music." Mike Joyce, The Washington Post.


"Wait till you feel Dexter's chilling reading of the Ellington-Strayhorn classic 'Something to Live For,' or Abbey Lincoln's piercing 'Throw It Away.' It's devastating Dexter at her best." John Hoglund. Bistro Bits, Back Stage.

 
 
 

 

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