Tracy Stark and Marcus Simeone
Pangea
November 19, 2021, 7pm

High, sweet, and arresting, Marcus Simeone’s agile tenor pierced the hush of the darkened room: “Some things that happen for the first time seem to be happening again … ” It was a bold beginning to an evening featuring two stalwarts of New York City’s cabaret scene celebrating their twenty-year collaboration with an eclectic set of songs, infectious camaraderie, and gorgeous musicianship.

Pianist-songwriter-singer Tracy Stark and singer-songwriter Simeone were last seen together performing the Janis Ian songbook, and the set celebrated Ian’s work with three pieces showing her tremendous range as a songwriter. On the first, the midtempo “I’m Still Standing,” Stark took the vocal; she and Simeone duetted on the two ballads that followed, “Getting Over You,” and the closing number, “Stars.”
Stark’s playing is rich and warm, percussive or smooth as the occasion demands, and there’s no style of playing she can’t seem to master. She supported Simeone soulfully on “A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke)—which was something of a showpiece for Simeone, featuring tasteful riffing and an exciting climax.

No fewer than seven of the fifteen songs were Simeone or Stark, or Simeone/Stark originals, and they sounded terrific. Their work is inspired more by pop than musical theatre, but it has a dramatic quality that plays well on a cabaret stage. The two outstanding originals were Stark’s “Morning Light,” a sweet, sexy, blues-inflected duet; and the duo’s first-ever collaboration, the shapely “Haunted,” a perfect match of music and lyrics; Simeone’s expressive vocal, Stark’s haunting pianism, and a huge, slow crescendo added to the mystery.

Bassist Boots Maleson traded solos with Stark on a jaunty, uptempo “All of Me (Gerald Marks/Seymour Simons), and Stark showed off more of her Carole King-like vocals on Joan Armatrading’s “Love and Affection.”

Stark and Simeone have a long history of making excellent music together; the show was a window onto their collaboration. There was an intimacy to the evening that went beyond the usual intimacy of the small room. When the performers spoke to the audience between numbers, it was more like conversation at a party than formal patter; they joked and teased each other spontaneously without ever losing the thread.

 

 

Photos: David Sabella