Ronny Whyte: Shades of Whyte. Birdland, NYC, May 18, 2017
Asked once where he was from, Ronny Whyte responded, “The past.” A torch bearer for songs with nimble lyrics and engaging melodies, the multi-skilled musician embodies style, taste, and understatement. That he does so evoking nostalgia without ever sounding dated is a testimony to both talent and material. Singers alert: It should be noted that many of tonight’s numbers (also on the CD), which sound like American Songbook standards, were written by Whyte and others in the course of the last few years. Check them out!
Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner’s “Too Late Now” arrives slow and reflective. Elongated phrases have gauzy edges. Whyte sighs the lyric. Muted trumpet embellishes. “Darling, no,” he sings, raising his eyebrows, “I can’t anymore….” A lovely, winsome “Nina Never Knew” (Louis Alter/Milton Drake) finds the guitar embracing sentimentality while Whyte’s delicate vocal emerges humble and appreciative. A smile hovers.
“I used to do this for Al regularly, so he wrote the verse for me,” Whyte tells us introducing “Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues” (Al Byron/Woody Harris). “They say that people judge you by the friends you choose/Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues.” It’s a sexy rendition with burlesque bass, stealthy sax segueing into a sassy, wide-hipped solo, and low slung, soulful piano. “Suh-hum of my best friends…” Whyte sings.
Charming carnivale music includes: “It’s Time for Love” (Ronny Whyte/Bob Levy), an infectiously lighthearted number that hitches a ride on the playful spirit of a skibbling, twirling flute; and a weaving of “A Little Samba” (Duncan Lamont) with “So Danco Samba” (Lamont/Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes) that offers fragrant vocal, dip-diving flute, bright, colorful trumpet, and guitar riffs like streamers in the wind. (Partially in Portuguese!)
Leaving the piano, Whyte, whose voice is as fine as his musicianship, performs a fond “I Love the Way You Dance”(Ronny White/Frank Grant) as if every word were a caress; “I’ll Close My Eyes” (Billy Reid/Buddy Kaye), just a shadow of Latin in the arrangement, even consonants tip toeing; and “Linger Awhile” (Whyte/Roger Schore)—”…Watching the shadows dance on the ceiling/Are they as happy as I’m feeling?…”— savoring the vision, notes, emotion. “Now that I’ve found you/Why must you run?”; he looks perplexed.
“Love Me Tomorrow” (Vernon Duke/John Latouche) is the warning of an insouciant character, a rogue. Take-it-or-leave-it trumpet, clean, tart guitar licks, and Whyte’s selective, explanatory gestures (the first of these) make the song a scene. “I’ll Tell You What” (Whyte), with rhymes like “hit-cha/bit-cha” and terms like “sweetie pie,” is the epitome of ’60s hip. “Here I am, ready or not/You can never say I didn’t tell you what….” The lyrics are tight and wry, horn is arch. It takes an artist intimate with “cool” to tender this with an innate shrug.
Whyte genially provides a few anecdotes, but perhaps his most personal choice is his own lush, “Blame It on the Movies”: “If I expect to find romance/With love scenes underscored/Blame it on the movies….” Who hasn’t experienced these feelings? If this were a music video, it would be black and white. It’s a rueful, looking back song.
The evening hits a sweet spot again and again. Ronny Whyte continues to captivate.
Whyte’s first class band includes Boots Maleson (bass), Lou Caputo (tenor sax/flute), Alex Nguyen (trumpet), Sean Harkness (guitar), David Silliman (drums). (It’s a pleasure to see a bandstand of men in suits and ties.) With the addition of Mauricio De Souza, this is the group that plays on the excellent CD. I can’t wait.
– Alix Cohen, Cabaret Scenes (May 19, 2017)
Ronny Whyte At St. Peter’s Church, New York, NY
Last Wednesday, Ronny Whyte, producer of the excellent series Midday Jazz, gave those who don’t stay up late enough for his Knickerbocker appearances a sample of prime, stylish jazz. The pianist/composer/singer’s musicianship is a combination of vintage talent, élan and sheer pleasure in his art.
Ably joined by Boots Maleson (bass) and David Silliman (drums), Whyte offered selections as diverse as 1937’s bebop “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm,” Burt Kalmar/Harry Ruby material, his own songs with varied lyricists, and an emotionally combustive instrumental medley of selections from Porgy and Bess, which begins with a mid-tempo, yet still languid “Summertime,” after which we move mellifluously through the show’s score. There’s a sumptuous “I Loves You, Porgy,” a ragtime interpretation of “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing,” and a version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” that feels decidedly like coloring outside the lines.
Whyte is a jazz man down to his well-shod toes, often treating beat and melody as if separate, collaborating dancers. Last words in a phrase have vibrato tails that linger, but don’t quite exit his throat. This is particularly apparent with romantic lyrics. “Neverthelesssss, I’m in love with you” he sings, eyes closed above woven arpeggios. “Born to Be Blue” (Mel Tormé/Bob Wells) elicits a musically resigned shrug on the rocks. The piano sashays.
Among Whyte’s own compositions, we hear the timeless “I Love the Way You Dance” (lyric: Frank Grant) being recorded by Marlene VerPlanck next week, a lighthearted, Latin-shaded “It’s Time for Love” (lyric: Bob Levy) and a “not-quite traditional blues for the very wealthy called “The Hampton Blues” (with Jack Burns), which features contemporary quandaries like “…my maid is away for the rest of the day and I can’t find the gin” and “I can’t take mass transit to Amagansett.” We’re living in an era when words like Prozac, Botox, Cesna, and Viagra are sung. A hoot.
Ronny Whyte remains warm, dapper, polished, and nimble fingered. A savory afternoon concert.
– Alix Cohen, Cabaret Scenes (June 11, 2014)
Reviews of Nevertheless… The Kalmar and Ruby Songbook
Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar were a songwriting duo who did not have the name recognition of the greats like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin or the Gershwins, but they had an impressive catalog of songs that entered the realm of standards. Singer/pianist RONNY WHYTE has recently released Nevertheless…The Kalmar and Ruby Songbook (Audiophile – 344), an album that should bring the names of these gentlemen a bit more into the foreground. Whyte has enlisted bassist Boots Maleson and drummer David Silliman to accompany him on all of the 15 tracks, and brought in Warren Vaché on cornet, Lou Caputo on reeds and Ben Sher on guitar for occasional contributions to the proceedings. Whyte has a pleasant baritone, knows how to effectively put across a lyric, and is an accomplished self-accompanist who has a wonderful jazz sensitivity. The songs are as familiar as “Nevertheless,” “Three Little Words” and “A Kiss to Build a Dream On;” rarely heard gems like “Keep Romance Alive” or “Up in the Clouds;” or bits of whimsy like “Show Me a Rose” and “Hold Me Thusly.” No matter the song, Whyte and company give each of them caring respect. An added pleasure is the informative and witty notes by Ruby’s granddaughter Laurie and her husband Larry Lowenstein. This is an album guaranteed to entertain you.
– Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz (September, 2014)
Ronny Whyte may be one of the last of the old-fashioned piano bar/saloon singers. At best, he’s one of a fading breed. And that makes his every release a happening. This CD is no exception.
On his latest Audiophile disc, this cabaret/piano bar mainstay offers a tribute to the beloved songs of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. While arguably a trite overshadowed by peers of their generation like Berlin, Porter and such, the duo is well known to purists of the American Songbook with evergreens under their belt like “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” (with Oscar Hammerstein II) and “I Wanna Be Loved by You” (music co-written with Herbert Stothhart). Any respectable lover of sweet saloon songs is quite familiar with this team. Here, Whyte serves them with dignity, fun, respect and that special reverence for greatness that only a true connoisseur can impart. Being a serious throwback to the days of Mabel Mercer at RSVP and Bobby Short as his career grew into star status, Whyte’s the perfect choice for Kalmar and Ruby. As alluded to, there are only a handful left who can touch those names with great style and Ronny Whyte is at the top of that list.
At times, his style is minimalist, letting words and music speak for themselves with little embellishments, as on the album’s cheeky opener, “Give Me the Simple Life” (lyric: Ruby; music: Rube Bloom) and a tender “Thinking of You,” with its hauntingly moody assist from Lou Caputo on reeds. Other times, Whyte shows what a great swing arranger he is on the likes of “Who’s Sorry Now?” (music: Ted Snyder) and “Three Little Words.” He often sets a pace that slows down as he ruminates on the lyrics, drawing out relevant words that can almost bring songs to a halt. Sometimes, he allows the music to swell at dramatic moments, then pauses, allowing hushed moments to bring out the interior lives of the songs. This works with the whimsy he brings to the well-known “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” enhanced greatly by Warren Vaché on cornet. Vaché plays an important role in the success of this nostalgic walk down memory lane, as do Boots Maleson on bass and David Silliman on drums.
Overall, this is a well-produced disc with staying power in a world where that can’t be said too often anymore. With a bright, lived-in baritone that echoes another era and a suave piano style that simply flows like aged wine, Ronny Whyte hits the mark once again and proves why he is a torchbearer.
– John Hoglund, Cabaret Scenes (August 12, 2014)
JVC Jazz Festival
“Whyte was joined by Eddie Monteiro on digitally enhanced accordion and wordless vocals, and drummer Joe Cocuzzo. His set was the most adventurous, taking jazz chances with “I Can’t Get Started” in an arrangement that moved from 4/4 swing to out-of-tempo, out of order verse, to waltz time, with jazz scat singing interludes. With Monteiro supplying orchestral synth-strings he led two of his own songs, ‘Warm Goes to Warm”‘ and the standard, “Forget The Woman.” There was also the rarely heard, deliciously funny Kurt Weill tune with Ira Gershwin lyrics, “A Rhyme for Angela” and a pitch-perfect version of “Mack the Knife” in the original German.”
– George Kanzler, Newark Star-Ledger
“Ronny Whyte, one of the principal performers of the long-running Off Broadway “Our Sinatra”, posesees a warm brandy voice. His imaginatively structured and distinctive piano framed his own lovely odginals “Warm Goes to Warm” and “Forget the Woman”, as well as Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife.” With no apologies to Ella, Satchmo or Bobby Darin, Whyte puts a fresh twist on the tune by singing it in German, with his own scatting second chorus trading dazzling measures with Eddie Monteiro’s vocalese and flavorful continental accordion assist. With Rosemary Clooney’s favorite drummer, Joe Cocuzzo, adding the punch and drive, the set boasted a big, rich sound balanced by the required intimacy.”
– Robert L. Daniels, Variety
Thanks For The Memory – A Tribute to Bob Hope Ronny has concocted a terrific musical tribute to the entertainer icon, Bob Hope, now nearing 100, Whyte is hipper than ever before and his phrasing in many instances is daring.”
– Gary Stevens, New England Entertainment Digest
“A Tribute to Bob Hope is so much more than that. It is original in every way possible. And at every turn you will discover pleasant surjprises. These fifteen evergreens introduced by the long nosed one on the big screen and on the stage just tear at my memory and bring back some wonderfuI times. Ronny is a double threat pianist/singer. The fun here is actually contagious…it never stops. The songs begin in the year 1929 and continue through 1950. I would love to draw your attention to the sparkling song from the Kern and Harbach “Roberta,” “Let’s Begin,” Ronny offers a brand new slinky, almost indecent take on this great song.”
– Dan Singer, In Tune International
“Thanks for the refreshed memory, Ronny.” – Billboard
“…it is probably Ronny Whyte’s night. Ronny is such a deft performer, nothing escapes him. He has a definitive style, impeccable phrasing, and a most pleasing voice. On top of that, he’s eternally young. ..He’s right on with “Come Fly With Me” and ‘You’re Sensational.”
– Gary Stevens, Syndicated Columnist
“Whyte is a popular piano man and singer with an easy swing, sophisticated phrasing and an encyclopedia musical mind. He’s got it all down, both uptempo and the ballads, as easy as a summer wind. Solo at the piano, seemingly without even trying, he inhabits a bemused “Everything Happens to Me,” and swings out with “Oh, Look At Me Now/.” It was overheard during our evening that Whyte could actually do the show by himself.”
– Elizabeth Ahifors, Cabaret Scenes
“Ronny is such a deft performer, nothing escapes him. He has a definitive style, impeccable phrasing, and a most pleasing voice. On top of that, he’s eternally young… He’s right on with “Come Fly With Me” and ‘You’re Sensational”.
– Gary Stevens, Syndicated Columnist
“Mr. Whyte conducts a witty and knowledgeable survey of the Sinatra canon.”
– Stephen Holden, New York Times
“…of the three performers paying tribute, only Ronny Whyte has the laid-back style and sense of phrasing that approximates what made (Sinatra) special. Whyte also proves himself quite accomplished at the piano.” Hap Epstein, Palm Beach Post “Whyte, who serves as the cool outsider and a kind of host handles it all with a touch of humor. With his arousing piano playin9 and singing style that takes you back to the 505, Whyte sets a classy mood from his early rendition of “On Look At Me Now”
– Maria Barber, Miami Herald
“Pianist-Singer Ronny Whyte serves as anchor in this show. Whyte has the Sinatra style, not so much in the actual singing voice, but in his way of “inhabiting” the song and acting out the emotions accordingly.”
– Skip Sheffield, Boca Raton News
“With the current revival of ’50s and early ’60s “cocktail music,” Tommy Wolfe’s songs deserve a new listen. As emotionally breathtaking as a dry martini, complemented by a dash of wry and with rue replacing the olive, Wolfe’s sophisticated tunes plus Fran Landesman’s lyrics were dubbed “American Lieder” by the composer. Now, with “Whyte Wolf,” jazz-cabaret singer-pianist Ronny Whyte essays 16 Wolfe songs, including such lieder as “Ballad of the Sad Young Men,” “You Cant Go Home Again” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”
– George Kanzler, Newark Star-Ledger
“The late composer/lyricist Tommy Wolf is best remembered as” the co-author—with lyricist and frequent collaborator Fran Landesman—of two ’50s cabaret classics: “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” and “The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men.” His works, 16 of which are presented here, are full of feeling and “50s cool, and they couldn’t ask for a more sympathetic vocalist than ever-talented veteran Ronny Whyte, who gives a freshness to material that reflects a bygone pop era.”
– Billboard Magazine
“New York vocalist-pianist Ronny Whyte has a sophisticated style that’s well-suited to the work of composer Tommy Wolf, whose coalition with lyricist Fran Landesman produced “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” That jazz standard and 15 other Wolf originals are delivered beautifully on this tribute with bassist Boots Maleson and drummer Taro Okamoto. Among other top-rated songs are “You Smell So Good,” “I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco” and “This Little Love of Ours.”
– Patricia Myers, JazzTimes
When Ronny Whyte brings out a new release, you can be sure that it will be imbued with good taste and fine musicianship. Whyte Wolf is an exploration of the song catalog of one of the truly hip songmiths, Tommy Wolf. Most of you are probably familiar with “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men,” the two Wolf songs that have readied the level of being standards. A careful listen to Whyte Wolf, however, will convince you that it contains many other songs which could eventually achieve this exalted status. Particularly strong candidates are “I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco” and “It Isn’t So Good It Couldn’t Get Better.” Throughout, Whyte, strongly supported by Boots Maleson on bass and Taro Okamoto on drums, gives an exemplary statement of just why he continues to be one of the premier pianist/vocalists working today. His vocals are true to the spirit of each piece, tender when needed, swinging in just the right places, and right on target in finding the humor in wryly observant lyrics like those for “Say Cheese'” and “It’s Nice Weather for Ducks.” Whyte’s work on the piano is also consistently strong, his jazz sensitivity always very much in evidence. Whyte and Wolf are a perfect musical marriage.
– Joe Lang, New Jersey Jazz
“…a strongly expressive singer…an adventurous and inquisitive performer who can be either comic or romantic with an unflappably relaxed manner that gives his programs smoothness and unity.
– John S.Wilson, New York Times
Whyte (handsome, dapper, easygoing) is a first class cabaret singer. His diction sparkles… his songs ring and float and shine. In a town chock-full ofsinger-pianists, Whyte is wonderfully good.”
– Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker
“…sparkling…one of the more distinguished singing pianists.”
– Stephen Holden, New York Times
“The Cary Grant of the piano…”
– Estado de Sao Paulo, Brazil
“..truly distinctive style, eclectic facility at the keyboard.”
– Mike Joyce, Washington Post
“His voice is soft as velvet. His piano is outstanding. He is professional, smooth and cool… the definitive example of a great musician from the highly competitive music world of the Big Apple.”
– Johann Tempelhoff, Beeld, Johannesburg S.A.
“The epitome of a high-class NewYork entertainer. He is “Class.” His choice of material was impeccable. A connoisseur set brilliantly timed and superbly presented…not to be missed.”
– Don Albert, Daily News, Durban, S.Africa
“…an excellent example of the popular song as an art form influenced by jazz…unerring good taste and communicative clarity.”
– Alan Bargebuhr, Cadence
“Whyte’s imagination, backed by the musical ability and performance skills to make his visions a reality on the keyboard, have made him one of New York’s most talked about pianists.”
– Bob Harrington, New York Post
“One of the town’s most sophisticated and talented troubadours: a Renaissance man, one of the most stylish performers this side of Astaire.”
– William A. Raidy, Newhouse Papers
“There is much to be learned from Ronny Whyte about pacing, taste, and the sheer art of performance. It’s impossible to imagine this city without him.”
– Richard Sudhalter, New York Post