In this issue Sarah Lawrence stops in on New York City performances by six young alums who are riding their skill, will and dreams into disparate realms of the music world.
Stacey Kent ’88, The Algonquin Hotel, September 26, 2002
On a drizzling evening when the low clouds were inlaid with muted reflections of city light, Stacey Kent sang her cabaret songs in the Algonquin’s Oak Room, a long, paneled place of white-clothed tables whose votive candles floated in the darkness. Kent’s voice is precise and controlled, her music spare and finely shaded—the kind where, in the spaces, one could pick up the sounds of life within and beneath: a low “yes” from the audience as a song resolved, the rustle of someone turning in a chair, saxophonist Jim Tomlinson—Kent’s husband—drawing his breath during a solo, the dry click of plectrum on guitar strings.
“It’s seeing and feeling the audience that really fuels us,” Kent says of performing. Her song list included servings of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire, and some Cole Porter set to a Brazilian bounce.
She studied literature and fiction writing at SLC and has always loved telling a tale, especially one with an optimistic message about love.
“The stories I have to work with are so relevant to me. The same ones get told year after year, century after century. I love to go to that very warm and personal and inviting place and take people with me.”
Danny Katz ’99, The Lion’s Den, November 8, 2002
Downtown Manhattan is forested with rock clubs where piped-in music blares until the instant the live act begins, and musicians with later slots file steadily past the stage with their equipment like incoming aircraft. This was the case for the show by Danny Katz’s three-piece band at The Lion’s Den. Because the club wasn’t familiar with his music, Katz’s set—the official release party for Landscape, his first post-SLC CD—was scheduled closer to dinner hour than party hour. But the band made the most of it, churning through 40 minutes of tight, energetic “gay-sex-positive-pop-rock,” which turned heads in the small seating area in the back.
Katz says his lyrics “use sexuality to talk about stuff that’s not sexual—among other things, America’s static and conservative political and cultural landscape.” Not, he acknowledged, that anyone at The Lion’s Den could tell: It was impossible to discern the lyrics from a distance that preserved the eardrums. Katz spoke nostalgically of the Boston coffee-shop atmosphere and noted the more mellow college band circuit he hopes eventually to join. Until then, he’s in New York—and saving for an electric guitar.
Girlyman, Columbia University, November 22, 2002
Tammy Greenstein ’96, Doris Muramatsu ’96 and Nate Borofsky ’97, who have been performing as a trio for a year, like to say that if they were mixed up in a blender the result would be a girly-man—which seems a more whimsical and irreverent term than their passionate, modern folk might command. After several years of performing separately—Greenstein and Muramatsu as The Garden Verge and Borofsky as himself—they combined forces, rearranging their old songs for three voices and writing new ones. Each is a seasoned and powerful songwriter; and when their voices swell together, the hours of attention they’ve given their craft are suddenly animate on the stage.
The stony, cramped Postcrypt Coffeehouse, beneath St. Paul’s Chapel, has a dim, sepulchral charm; and so many people squeezed in to see Girlyman that Borofsky quipped from the stage, “We’re breaking all the codes tonight.”
“There’s a feeling at the Postcrypt of there being no stage at all,” says Greenstein. “It’s like being in a room with some friends and strangers, sharing songs. It feels like the folk tradition to me.”
Girlyman accompanied themselves on acoustic guitars, as well as Greenstein’s bongo-like djembe and Borofsky’s electrified baritone guitar; between songs, they bantered easily with one another and the audience.
“This is the kind of show that makes me the happiest—a listening-room gig with a supportive audience,” said Muramatsu. “You get a show like this one, and you realize why you keep going.”
Brendan Fowler ’01, Right Bank Café, Brooklyn, December 4, 2002
“I have a background in irritating noise,” says Brendan Fowler, who studied free jazz at Sarah Lawrence, which is not to say that his brand of spoken-word performance is irritating. But, for him, the heights of his show were the periods he spent noodling with a seemingly recalcitrant mini-disk player that emitted an insistent beep-beep-beep, while he casually tossed off axioms such as: “Never let anyone see your lack of dominance in a situation,” and “Our culture’s debt to skateboarding is huge.”
“I like talking between songs and acting like I don’t know what I’m doing,” Fowler says. “That’s way more fun than the songs.”
At the Right Bank Café, young, shaggy artists streamed in out of a frigid night, many coming up to embrace Fowler, who moved to Los Angeles a year ago. “This is my favorite kind of show,” he said.
Fowler calls his art “public speaking.” He performs under the name BARR (derived from “Brendan is always right”), intoning to pre-recorded drumbeats thoughts about personal liberation and bigger politics, often holding a picket sign or, at the Right Bank, a cardboard box inscribed “BARR” over his head.
“It’s a need,” he says of performing. “I’m totally that kid.
“Anybody who knows me will tell you that what I’m talking about is so Brendan.”