In her recent shows at Metropolitan Room, Tanya Holt proved she is more than a cut above most of the acts she books in her capacity as booking manager of the club. This lady has so much going for her. Watching her show, was like a throwback to another era where the girl singer fronted the band and calmly tore the roof off the place. She made them laugh. She made them cry. Few artists have such a gift. With so much going for her, one can't help ask - why isn't she better known? She has goods to spare and aside from some serious moments that shattered, she is very relaxed and quite the funny lady.
Deftly directed by Lennie Watts, who never let the direction get in the way, the set was filled with carefully thought-out songs and riotous patter that poked fun at the hiccups in her life and embraced the good stuff in a compelling style. Holt's show was a lesson in selecting material that suits the performer, follows a thread and remains true to who she is.
At times, she recalled a mellow Rebecca Parris in a cool jazz mode or a reflective Jill Scott. Comparisons aside, Tanya Holt is her own person and, above all, a truth-teller whose not afraid to take chances. For instance, taking on the late Whitney Houston's monster hit, I Have Nothing (Thompson-Foster) was about as risky a chance as a female vocalist today can get – especially on an intimate stage. Holt fluently took this from a very personal place somewhere deep inside and turned it from something maudlin to an anthem of inspiration where the listener just knows she makes it. This applied to the brunt of her show. On I Can Cook Too from On The Town (Bernstein-Comden/Green,) she practically got a standing ovation from the explosive, laughter-filled room mobbed with friends and colleagues who knew of her recent ordeal when her house burned which she turned into an hysterical accounting. This was appropriately followed by an uplifting Gotta Move (Peter Matz.) Tackling the melancholic This Bitter Earth by Clyde Otis, made famous by the late Dinah Washington, she created a sobering moment with a subdued reading that was well paced. She was also very effective on the familiar Home from The Wiz (Smalls.)
Holt's singing is capable of refined phrasing and some surprise high belting which she uses sparingly but with great effect. In the final analysis, hers was a show wrapped around a theme of reflection and fun times or, more to the point, falling down in life and getting right back up. Tanya Holt needs more exposure. Like others, past and present, this gal singer deserves to be seen and heard. Closing with Dinah Washington's Let's Get Busy capped a solid evening from a pro who needs to do just that - and go to that next level.
Tracy Stark excelled as musical director/arranger. Matt Wigton offered perfect support on bass.