Los Angeles Times

July 24, 2000

Clooney, Feinstein Set High Standards


Compatibility was in the air at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night. Rosemary Clooney, 72, and Michael Feinstein, 43, may be decades apart in age, but when it comes to music, they are true soul mates. Although their styles are different, they share an enormous respect for the great catalog of American standards, and, especially, for the Gershwins. When Feinstein and Clooney met in the '80s, he was Ira Gershwin's assistant, and she lived in the house next door.

So it wasn't surprising that Feinstein's opening set included a three-song Gershwin segment, nor that he sang pieces such as "Nice Work if You Can Get It" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" with a rare blend of sensitivity and intelligence. He was equally affecting with lovely renderings of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the lovely Johnny Mercer/David Raksin film song "Laura." True, there were a few moments in which Feinstein pushed the size of his musical presence--perfectly suited for the cabaret stage--beyond its natural boundaries in an obvious attempt to expand into the Bowl's outer reaches. But his amiability and natural wit always managed, fortunately, to prevail.

Clooney's voice has been one of the natural wonders--too often underappreciated--since her pop star days in the '50s. And her turn toward jazz in recent decades has simply been a matter of bringing to the surface rhythmic qualities that were always a subtext in her singing. She, too, celebrated the Bergmans' lyrics with "The Summer Knows" (music by Legrand) and "Nice 'n' Easy" (music by Lew Spence) and applied her still honey-toned sound to Cole Porter's elegant "I Concentrate on You," the love-lorn Frank Sinatra hit "In the Wee Small Hours" (by Bob Hilliard and Dave Mann, and added her own unique--and unexpected--rendering of James Taylor's "The Secret of Life."

Finally, and appropriately, Feinstein and Clooney came together for a spirited Gershwin climax, first with the rousing "Strike Up the Band," then with the optimistic "Our Love Is Here to Stay," a warm and, yes, compatible close to a lovely musical evening. They were accompanied throughout by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, playing a largely discreet supportive role, conducted by Matt Catingub.

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