Reviews

What the reviewers have to say…

Jazz/Cabaret

“For those of you new to town or living under a rock for the last twenty years, Mady Kaye is Austin’s premier straight-up, can-do-it-all vocalist. Equally comfortable laying down cabaret tunes or jazz standards, on the (Austin Jazz Workshop) CD she sails through Porter classics like Night and Day, Let’s Do It and Just One of Those Things. Kaye’s live shows are especially buoyant when she’s tackling playful material like Porter’s. In her hands his high-minded bawdiness really comes across with its intended and sophisticated zing.”
— Rita DeBellis, Calendars Editor, The Good Life

Cabaret: Tribute to Tin Pan Alley: Sweet History

For many, the term ‘history lesson’ suggests a dry and dusty audit of some antique past, conducted by an ancient scholar almost as dessicated as the bones of his subject. But for those who attended the history lesson this past weekend at the Z Cabaret, the term ought to possess a much livelier character. Make no mistake, it was a history lesson: from the get-go, longtime local chanteuse Mady Kaye made it quite clear that her “Tribute to Tin Pan Alley” was intended to enlighted its audience regarding the history of 20th-century American song. Via her opening aural collage, she walked us back in time to the streets of New York City just after World War I, where we could hear the music publishing house “pluggers”–in-house pianists whose job was to play the company’s hits over and over and over–tickling the ivories for passersby. And throughout the show, she filled our ears with names and dates, the hired-gun composers and lyricists whose melodic creations changed the face of popular music and the years in which they scored some of their biggest hits. Yes, Kaye was holding class last week. But when the subject of the lesson is as rich in romance and humor as America’s Golden Age of Song and your guide through the past is as enthusiastic and appealing as Mady Kaye, well, then the lesson is a pleasure.

Kaye is an unabashed fan of the Great American Songbook, and just watching her fervor for it can be captivating. She dances her way through the subject, gliding from anecdote to anecdote, spinning from this composer to that, praising their work in turns light and graceful. And occasionally she’s even inspired to kick up her heels literally, as in a sprightly Charleston number. Her elation pulls us in and infects us.

But Kaye beguiles her audience with more than her broad smile and playful patter. She is a skillful interpreter of Tin Pan Alley’s classics, and when she gives voice to these masterpieces of wit and romance, she communicates all the craft, all the feeling that has made these songs standards not merely because they brought a standardized approach to song structure but because they are embraced the world over as the standard for popular songs. Kaye’s polished technique makes every word clear, every clever phrase ring, even when her delivery is hushed. In fact, some of the singer’s most effective work comes when she sings softly; her voice comes out like a taut thread of silk: shiny but surprisingly supple and strong.

In one “class,” Kaye couldn’t possibly cover all the great songsmiths of Tin Pan Alley, but with a program that included such highlights of the Golden Age as Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar’s “Tea for Two,” Fats Waller’s “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart’s “Manhattan,” George and Ira Gershwin’s “They All Laughed,” Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” Harold Arlen and “Yip” Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow,” and Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t
Mean a Thing If it Ain’t Got that Swing” (which swung with a mightly jazz piano solo from accompanists Jeff Hellmer), Kaye’s “Tribute” provided a winning introduction to the subject, a survey course right up our alley.

– Robert Faires, Arts Editor, Austin Chronicle, Theater Review

Jazz: Sophistication and Elegance

“It’s no secret that the martini & cigar crowd has ruined Scott Joplin’s legacy for everyone, turning jazz into lounge – the elegant and sophisticated into the pretentious and empty. Well, then, Mady Kaye’s blood is on their evening wear, because sophistication and elegance are swooning under the spell of Kaye’s cool, seductive jazz stylings. And that’s not just because Kaye sings “Autumn Leaves” in French. Mais, non, mes amis. Neither is it the singers’s own Dixieland rent party, “Take it Home Someplace Else,” nor her four song ode to the seasons, which ends the album like Mother Nature sweeping leaves from the Autumn trees. It’s not even the strong support of local jazz vets like Rich Harney, Spencer Starnes, A.D. Mannion, Mitch Watkins, Tony Campise, John Mills, and Bob Meyer, that makes Kaye sound like she’s walking on clouds of her own design. Okay, it’s a lot of that – all that actually. That, and the fact that Kaye sounds like she was born to duet with Mel Torme. Mainly, though, it’s that Kaye doesn’t sing “lounge” music, she sings jazz – lives each note, breathes every line, inhabits every song. And when someone sings like that, it isn’t cigar & martini music, it’s a champagne and caviar rendezvous for two.”

– Raoul Hernandez, Music Editor, Austin Chronicle, CD Review.

An Open Love Letter to Mady Kaye

That’s right.  This broad has it all.
Lest you have any doubts, I can dispel them instantly.  Just click on the Austin Jazz Workshop track of “Night and Day.”
Go ahead and do it now, I’ll wait.
dum da dum dum dum deedle dee…

Did you do it?  Good!  Now you’re listening to Mady Kaye singing Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” as featured vocalist on our 2003 Anything Goes release.  The other musicians are myself on tenor sax, Pat Murray on trumpet, Luis Guerra on bass, Ernie Durawa on drums, and the late Marty Allen on piano.

Listen to how Mady lifts every note in the introduction with her impeccable pitch and sense of time.  Listen to how she relaxes into the rhythm section when the piano enters.  Basically, listen to how she just nails it.
Now consider that this is a live recording, without the imposition of studio tricks like auto-tuning or Pro Tools to correct sloppy pitch and time.  Mady is giving us the real deal here.

Mady has been nailing it for nigh on thirty years, ever since she was negative five years old.  (The preceding was an example of ‘compassionate math’).  Now we can begin to appreciate what a treasure we have in our midst.

Of course, if she had stopped at just being a great singer…
But in addition to her considerable vocal skill, Mady knows how to lead bands and how to market herself — two skills that every musician needs in order to make it in this competitive business.

She organized The Beat Divas, a vocal trio originally consisting of herself, Beth Ullman, and Suzi Stern.   She held it together through a personnel change when Suzi left and Dianne Donovan joined the group.  She commissioned great arrangers to produce great arrangements, wrote some herself, then rehearsed them into polished gems.  You can hear all this on their 2002 Live at Reid’s release.

When the gigs started to thin out, as they invariably do after a splashy debut, she found a new way to market the group.  What would happen if these three ladies combined their love for singing with their love for cooking and their love for standing around blabbing in the kitchen?  Put a collaborator like Central Market in the mix, and voila!  You’re Dishin’ with the Divas!

Which led to an enormously popular series of cooking classes, an appearance at a major food convention, a new CD of food-related songs (Dishin’ with the Divas, natch), a recent mention in the New York Times, and where will it all lead?  Heaven knows.  Anything goes!

And unlike some in this industry (no names, please), Mady is wonderfully generous.  (We considered calling her Magnanimous Mady Kaye, but deemed it too front-loaded.)  She has a great website and the first link on it brings you back here.  When I attended the Diva’s recent CD release at the Central Market, she acknowledged me from the stage and then gave a lengthy plug to the AJW project.  And she and the other Divas have graciously agreed to perform at our annual fundraiser on September 25th.  What a mensch she is!

So if you have an opportunity to catch Mady and/or The Beat Divas in action, seize it!
This you do not get every day.  This you should not miss.

– Mike Melinger, Founder/Saxophonist of The Austin Jazz Workshop

Jazz: The Cream of the Crop

“Particularly for a town this size, Austin is blessed with an uncommon crop of top-grade female jazz singers – witness the annual “Women in Jazz” sessions, at which 10 or 12 fine and diversified vocal stylists are featured each year – but for my tastes, the cream of this crop remains the elegant and variously gifted Mady Kaye. Ms. Kaye has graced our city’s music scene for a number of years now since moving here from her native New York state, notably during her long stint at the Hyatt Regency’s lobby bar, and she has developed a sizable corps of intensely loyal fans, who’ll be delighted to learn of a new CD. “Songs for All Seasons,” a baker’s dozen of standards and originals, marks Ms. Kaye’s recording debut as a songwriter and lyricist, for which she has contributed a four-number song cycle done in collaboration with pianist Rich Harney and Robert “Dude” Skiles. On all of the selections, though, Ms. Kaye displays her unusual vocal agility and her unfailing good taste in assocation with a pair of classy rhythm sections (pianist
Jeff Hellmer, bassist Spencer Starnes, and drummer A.D. Mannion or pianist Rich Harney, bassist Paul Spikes and drummer Art Kidd) and, on several selections, a horn section that includes saxists Tony Campise and John Mills, trumpeter Bob Meyer and trombonist Mike Mordecai. Ms. Kaye’s CD will, of course, be available in record stores around town, and the singer herself will be turning up in various venues sandwiched between her numerous private enagements. But in the meanwhile, it’s certainly nice to have her elegant voice floating down into our homes whenever we want it.”

– John Bustin, West Austin News

Jazz: A Reader of Fine Poetry

“…She can put a line through one color change after another without a pop, wheeze, or break in the tone. In ballads, her phrases run like a long white glove up the arm of a tall woman. The voice itself sounds like liquid silver, and she is always excitingly in tune. She declaims her text like a reader of fine poetry, and she continues to improve. I listened to an early tape, in which her virtues were already apparent… Her work of the past ten years or so (since I’ve been listening) is emotionally spot-on. As a jazz singer, she seems influenced most by cool and bop, Jon Hendricks and Mel Torme among the mix. At least, it takes brains for an artist to remind anyone of these singers. Her musical intelligence is formidable. Charlie Parker’s music attracts Kaye. She has put words to at least two of his solos. On this CD, she
tackles the fiendishly difficult “Au Privave” at breakneck tempo. It’s like watching an elaborate needlepoint pattern realizing itself in the time it takes to draw a breath. Awesome, witty precision. Not the least of the CD’s pleasures is Kaye’s almost perfect sense of repertiore. Excepting “Autumn Leaves,” there’s not one particularly well known song here, and yet almost all are winners, as if anything is needed to convince one of the depth of the American popular song, Heavens! These are the discards? My favorite song on this album includes the hilarious “Take it Home Someplace Else” and “So Hot” and the pensive “Autumn Song.”

– Steve Schwartz, New Orleans, Contributing Author, http://www.classical.net

Jazz: The Feminine Mystique

“Mady Kaye’s wide ranging set was arguably the most complete of the evening as she bebopped through a Charlie Parker tune and then delivered a bluesy “That’s Life,” featuring a tremendous tenor solo by Tony Campise. She also reworked Johnny Mercer’s big-band standard “Traveling Light” into an effective small ensemble piece. Kaye, always the model of pitch and intonation, also created the concert’s most entertaining segment as she brought Campise center stage to sing with her on “Centerpiece.” With Sandy Allen adding to the vocal mix, Kaye and Campise brought down the house with an extended duet combining humor and talent in equal proportions. Kaye also successfully tackled improvisation of a different sort than most vocalists attempt as she took suggested words – inlcuding dinosuars, chile peppers, and puddles – from the audience and seamlessly wove them into a rousing rendition of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

– Michael Point, Austin American Statesman, Concert Review:
“The Feminine Mystique: Women in Jazz Pack the Victory Grill” 6/23/97

Jazz: Women in Jazz Dazzles

“…Mady Kaye’s set was an entertaining and intriguing one as she premiered material (including a sensitive song cycle), from her upcoming CD “Songs for All Seasons.” Sipping hot tea between songs, Kaye was fighting a cold, though no one would have known from the polished professionalism of her performance. Kaye, however, is not just a pro, she’s an excellent and evocative vocalist who has the artistic audacity to add a Charlie Parker piece, complete with harmonica solo, to her set.”

– Michael Point, Austin American Statesman,
Concert Review: “Women in Jazz Dazzles Audiences” 10/15/96

Vocal Instruction: Austin Chronicle Picks

Mady Kaye. A very talented musician and singer in her own right, Mady Kaye is also a much sought after vocal instructor. Beginners with career aspirations and professionals who just want to keep their chops in shape are among her legion of satisfied students. Kaye’s main criteria for selecting students is that they share the same delight in singing and professional attitude reflected in her own work.

– Austin Chronicle’s Critics Picks: Best Professional Voice Instruction

Cabaret: Mady Kaye Does a Ritzy Cabaret Act

“Mady’s cabaret-style act is as lustrous as a polished gem… Many performers who call themselves singers would do well to play Mady’s CDs. Not a syllable or intonation is lost, however complicated the lyrics. And like Ella Fitzgerald, Mady almost always sings the verse as well as the chorus. She does so with melodic and lyrical precision as well as her trademark saucy attitude.”

– Dot Fowler, Arts & Entertainment, Lake Travis View, Concert Review

A Medley

“Mady Kaye, putting the Sssssss in sophisticated. Mady sings, struts and shows us all how it’s done.”

– From the 1997 Jazz Festival Program Guide, by Marie Black

Big Apple review

“Miss Kaye has a sweet, strong voice and precise diction… The rendering of ballads, show tunes, and some surprises by the Mady Kaye Trio… is a joy.”

– Howard Thompson, The New York Times