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05/25/12

Betty Bryant & Mark Christian Miller
Together
Bry-Mar

The first studio union of longtime pals Betty Bryant and Mark Christian Miller is the sort of charmingly unassuming album that is often overshadowed by splashier efforts. Bryant, now 82, has been a staple of the L.A. supper-club circuit for decades. All those nights of entertaining cutlery-rattling crowds have brought her to a place as both pianist and singer where, much like fellow nitery stalwart Barbara Carroll, jazz and cabaret blend seamlessly. Indeed, Bryant’s vocal style suggests a balanced mix of Julie Wilson (the best talk-singer in the business) and the late-career Maxine Sullivan.

Accompanied by saxophonist and flutist Robert Kyle, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, bassist Tomas Gargano and drummer Kenny Elliott, Bryant plays on all 11 tracks and provides solo vocals on three, including a rollicking “Money Honey” and a down-and-dirty “St. Louis Blues” that is superlative testament to the depth and breadth of her showmanship.

Miller, whose recent career has focused primarily on talent management, is purely a cabaret singer, clearly a student of the Michael Feinstein-Steve Ross school. He is far less vocally adventurous than Bryant, which is why he makes so good a partner, the solid core around which she can cavort on playful numbers like “Mountain Greenery” and “Give Me the Simple Life.” Miller goes it alone on three tracks, most impressively with an “A Stranger in Town” that echoes Mel Tormé’s definitively haunting reading.

Originally published in May 2012
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