I'm originally from the east coast and always considered myself a bit out of touch with the west coast. However, Cheryl Bentyne of The Manhattan Transfer and L.A. songwriter Mark Winkler brought me a little closer to that “West Coast Cool” with their performance for the Indy Jazz Fest at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club. Although the room was rather warm, the show was 100% cool; Bentyne and Winkler had an undeniable chemistry which transported the audience to the smoke-filled, dimly lit eras of Anita O'Day and Chet Baker.
Winkler called the Indy Jazz Fest a “swingin' thing” and proceeded to give a short history of the west coast jazz scene. He and Bentyne, with tireless effervescence and charisma – even sex appeal – covered several jazz standards, including a fun mash-up of “Route 66” and “Alright, Okay, You Win.” Their singing was always smooth, clean and enthusiastic and their performance infused with the cheeky humor that defines a cabaret. They also brought picture cards of the famous jazz performers they referenced.
Winkler's style was definitely finger-snapping, light and cool jazz; he had an easy and upbeat air. His stand-out solo songs were “Lemon Twist” and “A Lonely Place,” which he wrote as a theme song for the lesser-known Humphrey Bogart film of the same name.
Cheryl Bentyne captivated the audience with her old-world allure, feckless spirit and silky voice. The ballads “Talk of the Town” and “All about Ronnie” were heart-wrenching in their sincerity and simplicity. She treated the audience and Indy Jazz Fest experience with great warmth, often addressing the audience. Both artists spoke with fans and signed autographs after the show.
Additionally, I'd like to mention Jeremy Allen, the upright bassist for the duo. His playing was slick and skillful, receiving much praise from both the audience and the performers.
“Cool” was certainly the buzzword of the evening, the atmosphere enhanced by the low red and purple lights, cocktails and intimate setting of the Cabaret at the Columbia Club.
Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Mark Sheldon / Indy Jazz Fest