KAT GANG IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
In the MARCH 2012 Wall Street Journal, Kat and her fabulous band was profiled in an article about The National Arts Club, NYC.
KAT GANG Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for the BISTRO AWARDS
It's Beauty and the Beat at the Plaza Hotel's Rose Room. The Kat Gang Quartet has settled in with its jazz magic every Wednesday evening in the space that once housed the legendary Persian Room. That glamorous nightclub hosted some of the world's top performers, including Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, Carol Channing, and the "Incomparable Hildegarde." It is a perfect fit for the engaging Kat Gang (Kat is short for Katherine).
For the Rose Room, Gang chooses the American songbook, linking her popular selections with conversational comments about the history of the Plaza Hotel and the era of the 1930's and '40's, a heyday for these standards.
While Gang takes the traditional Gershwin and Porter melodies on a serpentine jazz route, she never loses touch with the lyrics, and the traditional tunes take on a fresh shine. She gives Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" a staccato phrasing, letting the tune fade away with a repetitive "cheek to cheek to cheek to cheek…" She is right there, with keen insight, in every selection. Singing Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "Manhattan," she glides into the line "Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by," Joe Young's guitar picking out a few identifying notes of John Kander and Fred Ebb's "New York, New York." Introducing Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's seductive 1942 classic, "That Old Black Magic," she reveals that Mercer's muse for the lyric was the star-crossed love-of-his-life, Judy Garland. Gang builds the rendition, climbing toward a sizzling denouement, "Aflame with such a burning desire…"
With a secure and trained four-octave range, Gang has an individual style that can be light and breezy one moment, but then she turns the tone down low to caress lush long lines. A good actress, her bright sound and lively scat fit neatly with the wit she finds in many tunes, but she turns romantic as naturally as any chanteuse. She openly revels in the tenderness of amour as she floats the words of "Embraceable You" (George and Ira Gershwin) above the sultry swaying of her rhythm band. Pablo Beltrán Ruiz and Norman Gimbel's "Sway" moves from romance into lust. Gang has all moods covered.
Kat Gang is not delivering hard-driving jazz although the interpretations are complex and embellished, jumping from vulnerability to the muscular swing of "All of Me" (Gerald Marks, Seymour Simons). Mentioning that her favorite version of that 1931 tune was by Sarah Vaughan, she takes off, sparkling with joy, rhythm and her own fluid scat.
It must be recognized that while this venue is not a smoky jazz club but an upscale landmark New York hotel, the Rose Room is a bar, albeit one of the more elegant ones. Bobby Short used to say, "I don't care how pretentious (a room) is, there are moments it reduces itself to being a saloon." Conversations here can get loud, just as they do in the Carlyle Hotel's Bemelmans Bar several blocks uptown.
The Plaza Hotel is presenting Kat Gang in association with Donald Schaffer Management and Ward Morehouse III, author of "Inside the Plaza: An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel." Gang takes care of the vocals with first-class support from Joe Young on guitar, Julian Smith on double bass, and Shawn Balthazor on drus. The chairs are comfortable, the atmosphere is plush, and the quartet begins its sets at 9pm. After the theatre or for just a cocktail, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy
KAT GANG Reviewed by Andrew Martin
By the time it closed in 1975, the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel had featured a luminous roster of stars on its stage over the decades; these included Liberace, Carol Channing, Burl Ives, Eddy Duchin, Kitty Carlisle, the Mills Brothers, Bob Fosse, Victor Borge, Marge and Gower Champion, Eddie Fisher, Xavier Cugat, the McGuire Sisters, Dinah Shore, Vic Damone, Bob Hope, Robert Goulet, Frankie Laine, Ethel Merman, Eartha Kitt, Henny Youngman, Liza Minnelli, Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, Kay Thompson, Vikki Carr, Julie Wilson, Diahann Carroll, Hildegarde, Lisa Kirk, Celeste Holm, and the first and only club act by Elsa Lanchester, among others. Since that time, it has metamorphosed into the world-famous Rose Club, a perfectly elegant space identified by the marble staircase leading to it from the lobby and the plush couches upon which to enjoy a cocktail or a nibble. As such, the spirits of entertainers and performances past linger throughout the space. Which, as it happens, only serves bandsinger Kat Gang in greater stead as she appears there every Wednesday night at 9 PM for an open-ended run, even though she hardly needs any assistance to shine as a nightlife standout.
In her show, entitled An Evening of Elegance, the stately and nearly-heartbreakingly-beautiful Ms. Gang is joined by the jazzy trio of Joe Young on guitar, Julian Smith on upright bass and Shawn Balthazor on drums, and never once does the group disappoint for an instant. After the combo sets a musical tone for the evening with a very impressive rendition of “I Remember You,” Gang assumes her rightful place at the microphone and bewitches the crowd with “Cheek to Cheek,” and the dazzling lilt possessed by her vocal pipes is never anything less than utterly enchanting. She proves equally impressive with two Gershwin numbers performed back to back, namely “They Can’t Take That Away” and “Embraceable You,” and when she tears into Arlen and Mercer’s classic “That Old Black Magic,” she clearly establishes herself as one of the finds of the season. There are moments where she’s oddly reminiscent of Sylvia Tosun, a cabaret chanteuse of similar physicality who scored a triumph at Eighty Eight’s in the mid-1990s, but Gang seems to have more than that, namely an indescribable charisma. She only serves to top herself further with “Sway” by Pablo Bertran Ruiz and a scat-laden “All of Me,” and by the time she’s extricating herself from the stage with “My Baby Just Cares” by Walter Donaldson, it’s clear that the audience (which that night included Jamie deRoy, Terese Genecco, Roy Sander and Ward Morehouse III) know as one that they’ve just witnessed the breakout performance of a serious contender.
Kat Gang and An Evening of Elegance seem to have no plan to vacate the Rose Club anytime soon. A more pleasant diversion from life’s hardships couldn’t
possibly be had (or so thoroughly savored) by anyone in the New York area.
Kat Gang – Beauty and the Beat at THE METROPOLITAN ROOM
MONA FINSTON - CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE
If you happened to read my last review, it touched on the differences between jazz and cabaret performance. You know, jazz focuses more on the sound, cabaret more on the words and theatrics … You get my drift. Well, last week I encountered a delightful musical hybrid by the name of Kat Gang, a stunning, natural performer who expresses herself beautifully in the jazz realm with a lovely and expressive voice. Her expression is also physical, facial and theatrical. I got the sense repeatedly that the music was roiling inside of her, percolating fiercely until it had to burst from her in melody and emotion. (Sounds a bit messy, but I assure you it was not).This show was, as Kat described it, was "brazenly themeless" and "death defying."
Well, I never felt that she was in great peril, but I must admit that purposely presenting an unrehearsed show, for some, would be a dangerous high-wire act that most audiences would watch with shielded eyes (and ears). But not Kat. Her own incredibly comfortable, natural approach and her rock-solid relationship with her pianist, the wonderful Barry Levitt, made this an evening I felt fortunate to be privy to. It was like a jam session where a healthy dose of improvisation and risk taking was part of the joy. As Kat said, she was there -as was the audience- to "embrace uncomfortability." Kat's song list included a wide variety of songs from "Wouldn't it be Loverly" from My Fair Lady to "The Sweetest Sounds" from No Strings, even the simple classics "Pennies from Heaven" and "Dream Your Troubles Away," which featured a terrific piano solo from Mr. Levitt. In "Here's that Rainy Day," the music seems to take possession of the singer, her face and her gestures were completely engaged in the telling of the song's story.
And when she sang soto voce, she brought her listeners right to her. The room was perfectly still. This is a singer who knows how to capture and keep an audience with the build of a song, the changes in feel, tone, volume, tempo. And a bonus is that her patter is funny and completely natural.
Every once in a while, I see a performer who is meant to be on the stage. I'm not talking about people with great talent or those who've worked hard to achieve success (although they certainly deserve to be there). I'm talking about those special performers who are so comfortable that they seem to make the stage their home and invite us in for tea or a dry martini with three olives. Kat Gang is that kind of performer.