Holiday lights had nothing on the rarely seen Tanya Holt on December 10 as she illuminated Urban Stages, helping to close their talent packed Winter Rhythms series. “… if you want to make me happy/Just make me a present of you!” (Joe Greene’s “Make Me a Present of You”) she sings with a little sass, some hip action and a whole lot of smile. A pop/jazz arrangement of “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington) follows on its heels. Holt plays with the phrasing, managing to remain in service of the lyrics. She has a soft-edged voice, always appealingly a shade seductive, and changes register with the effortlessness of a jazz baby.
“The Very Thought of You” (Ray Noble) is as pristine as they come. Vocals are simple and sincere, emotional emphasis communicated without volume, something too few singers recognize as more effective. Holt is still, eyes downcast. She embodies fragility. An oddly dissonant bass interferes.
“That’s what happens when things are going well; this is what happens when they don’t,” she explains introducing “Daddy-O” (Gene DePaul/Don Raye) with chord-centric, punctuating piano. Lyrical admonition is directed to a man in the first row. She bends at the waist, raises an eyebrow and shakes her finger at the poor soul…who cowers. The rendition has at-ti-tude. Holt is completely credible. Walking back to the piano, Holt turns to glare at him, fingers to eyes, and then towards him, making the gesture for: I’m watching you. She moves with pride and feline confidence-exactly what the lyric requires. It’s seriously cool.
“There was a recent incident on the home front leaving doubt as to my domestic capabilities…” serves as lead in to “I Can Cook Too” from On The Town. (Leonard Bernstein/Betty Comden/Adolf Green) Holt is referring to her own house having burned down as the result of a cooking fire. She’s sure enough about the make-up of the audience to offer little explanation. (And is mercifully accurate in her assumption.) The number is lively, flirty, and an example of survival humor.