Music reviewers call 'Chaise Lounge' a '"jazz sextet'".
This merry troupe of Washington, D.C.-based vertuosi bills itself, economically, "A cadre of musical pros".
To me, they are theater sublime.
Stripped of its many pretensions, theater is simply a profession. It is driven by a mission. That mission impels it to winnow its way into a venue. That venue needs only four walls, a rack or two of folding chairs, and just enough lights so a paying audience member can see and hear a live, colorfully-frocked performer tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Boy, does that description ever fit these guys!
'Chaise Lounge' slipped into America's oldest listening room, Bethlehem, PA's cozy Godfrey Daniels, early January 2017.
Precisly at 4 PM, five disarmingly creaky-looking players and a lone, singularly lovely chanteuse shuffled onto a cramped performance platform crouched knee-bangingly close to tables chockablock with alert and disciplined enthusiasts.
It was the last time that afternoon that Chaise Lounge seemed anything other than swashbuckling.
For once they'd planted their respective, reflective shoes in their appointed battlements on stage, they were suddenly as nimble as film-screen Saxons, brandishing their instruments like dueling sabers in a battle against the Norman invasion of contemporary music's capitulations.
Briefly, for those who aren't familiar with Godfrey's pedigree and charm, it has split the gate since the mid-1970s with Mary Faith Rhoads, Colin Hayes, Odetta, David Bromberg, Tom Chapin, Chris Smithe, Jim Weider of The Band, members of The Roches, John Gorka, Maria Muldaur, Tom Paxton, John McCutcheon, and others at such elevated levels of their ilk.
'Chaise Lounge' slides in among that storied company like a foot into Robin Hood's sandal.
Who are these guys?
Charlie Barnett's their supple leader, piano player, and songwriter. Tommy Barrick's on drums; Gary Gregg, clarinet; Pete Ostle, standup bass; Joe Jackson, trombone. Be particularly alert to Jackson, whose slide will blithely scratch your nose in a small room.
The whole merry band sports shiny, story-telling costumes, but none more eloquently than the silken clad and velvet throated front singer, Marilyn Older, their Maid Marian, who doesn't appear to need any rescuing, and probably wouldn't have to sing a note to get her point across, gliding back and forth from mike stand to keyboard whenever Mr. Barnett feels moved to strap on his guitar or heft his accordion.
The band is tight, light, crisp, and clean, but somehow manages to look as if they've just met up, perhaps while assaulting the King's men, and they happen to be packing horns and strings and skins. They pull off an act of surprise at how united they are with one other during battle, the illusion of spontaneity, the breathlessness of recognition--- that's theater, baby!
Chaise Lounge is simply one of the most riveting theater companies I've seen in many years.
Or 'sextets', or 'cadres of musicans', whatever you want to label them.
They look you in the eye and engage you with a reassuring confidence that you are not going to look away for the next two hours.
It's friendly, it's even chummy, it's solidly professional, it's wondrous. You simply cannot fault them for anything but appearing too infrequently in this region.
'Chaise Lounge' will be performing at Musikfest 2017 in August. You can learn more about them and even order their music files at www.chaiseloungenation.com
I'm a theater guy, not a musical guy, so rather than prattle on about their style, I'm going to share their afternoon's set list with the invested music lover, complete with Mr. Barnett's notations----
175 Bring me Sunshine- "This was the theme song for an English comedy duo- Morecomb and Wise. Not sure how we came to do it."
134 Do Nothin’ till you hear from me. Duke Ellington-
145 A Man who Can Cook
139 Only Had a Brain- Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen
257 The Earl
228 If I Never Get to Paris
252 My Baby Just Cares for me- "This is the Nina Simone cover. written by Walter Donaldson/ gus Kahn."
255 It Had Better be Tonight- H. Mancini-lyrics Johnny mercer. "From The Pink Panther."
250 Cold Day in New Orleans
238 I See You
217 Tick Tock
177 Coolest Car
44 Old Black Magic- harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.
256 I Grew a Rose
117 Dude, She’s Waiting
264 Corner of High and Blue
178 Losing Streak
183 Dot Dot Dot
Blue the Distracted Reader
50 Arrivederci- "Dean Martin hit- Renato Rascel composer."