08/30/11 By Bruce Klauber
A Winning Bet: Andy Kahn Wows 'Em at Atlantic City's Resorts Hotel/Casino
Pianist/singer Andy Kahn's performance of "The Great American Songbook" is a resounding success
Almost everyone who has an interest in such things knows that Atlantic City is in big financial trouble. Those in the Greater Delaware Valley area who like to gamble, a little or a lot, now need only drive up or down the block in order to play blackjack or the quarter slots.
The “in the know” contingent who have been following Atlantic City’s situation since gaming was made legal in 1978 say that the one-time king of resorts needs some kind of shot in the arm—make that a minor miracle—to survive and continue to compete as a tourist destination.
They may have found one. His name is Andy Kahn. He is an entertainer. He plays piano and sings.
One of Atlantic City’s draws, for almost a century, has been its entertainers. In its pre-casino heyday, A.C. played host to every major and minor star in the universe. Where else could one see the Three Stooges, Gene Krupa, Louis Prima, Duke Ellington, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and Frank Sinatra in person in one day?
Today, there’s not much room for innovation in terms of booking talent. The legendary big names are gone or retired and the demographics have certainly changed since 1978. So, in terms of entertainment, the Atlantic City casinos only have revue shows, rock bands, the occasional comic and disc jockeys from which to choose.
The rejuvenated Resorts Hotel Casino—the town’s first legal gaming hall—seems poised to move away from the norm in many areas and take some chances. In the booking of performer Andy Kahn, Resorts’ bet paid off. His one-nighter was a resounding success.
Over 100 people of all ages seemingly came out of nowhere to hear Kahn sing and play recently, within Resorts’ Starlight Ballroom, which moonlights as comic Joe Piscopo’s club on weekends. The audience did not hear a disc jockey or rock music. What they heard was a Kahn’s “Music by Intention” program, i.e., over 90 minutes of the ageless and timeless music of the great American composers such as Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer and the like, performed by a multi-talented pianist, affable and enthusiastic performer with obvious star quality.
Other artists through the seasons, notably the late Bobby Short and today’s Michael Feinstein, have used a similar repertoire as the basis of their programs, but Andy Kahn approaches things in a different way. Interwoven between tunes are anecdotes about the composers and their lives and times, all held together by heartfelt singing and jazz piano chops that Short and Feinstein could only dream of. His jazz rendition of “I Love Paris” was a standout.
It all works, and the Resorts audience couldn’t get enough.
Kahn has extensive experience, since childhood, in virtually every area of the entertainment industry. He’s worked as an actor, jazz pianist, cabaret performer, author, composer, recording studio executive, producer, engineer and talent scout. He was at the forefront of the disco movement via, among many other things, his production of the number one disco record of 1978, “Hot Shot,” as performed by Karen Young.
But in following Kahn’s career for almost 50 years, I’d have to report with some accuracy that singing and playing the great tunes, as he did at Resorts, remains his first love. Even if he were booked doing this 300 nights of the year, I doubt if he’d ever look upon it as “a job.” And there’s no chance for boredom, either. As the legendary Sam Butera used to say about his own shows at Resorts, “Each show is entirely different.” So are Kahn’s.
The management at Resorts is to be congratulated for taking a chance on something new. Their gamble paid off, proving that it’s virtually impossible to fail with the timeless and ageless elements that constitute the elegant repertoire of Andy Kahn. It’s important to remember that Kahn is not peddling nostalgia. He’s selling quality, and it’s because of quality that these compositions have lived on, in some cases for nearly 100 years.
I’d bet that Atlantic City audiences can’t wait for Kahn’s next show. I’ll be at the head of the line.
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