Fort Worth — Fort Worth’s Scat Jazz Lounge, a charming basement hideaway tucked in an alley off of Fourth Street in Sundance Square, was the perfect venue for “A Night Cabaret with Ava Pine & Jonathan Beyer” presented in The Cliburn’s Cliburn Sessions series on Jan. 31.
In a dimly lit room, set with cocktail tables and limited seating, Pine and Beyer presented a riveting display of vocal prowess through their interpretations of songs from the American Songbook and musical theater classics.
Pine, a Texas native now living in New York, enjoys a fervent local fanbase, and for good reason. Her bright smile and even brighter soprano give her a presence that is warm and sincerely engaging. Beyer, in working contrast, is witty and wry, with an award-winning baritone that neatly bellows when serious and jaunts expressively through lighter moments. As artists, they claim credits that include opera houses from coast to coast, but Thursday night’s performance was light and fun, while quintessentially musical.
Opening the hour-and-a-half long set was a fetching rendition of Cole Porter’s “De-Lovely”—a duet version that highlighted a delightfully persuasive chemistry between the two vocalists. Throughout the rest of the show, Pine and Beyer traded the spotlight for every other song.
Pine was beautifully interpretive on familiar numbers like Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful” from Annie Get Your Gun and Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” from the movie The Wizard of Oz. Her tone was surprisingly full and round throughout the low and middle registers, giving her a contemporary, poppy edge that challenged the bright ringing of her top. Her rendition of Kurt Weill’s “It Never Was You” was my first experience with the piece, and her gorgeous, shimmering, and connected lines made me an immediate fan.
Beyer’s lighter, more humorous selections provided a lovely balance in both mood and tone. The way he manipulated his brawny instrument for light-hearted storytelling was impressive and enjoyable. “The Saga of Jenny,” another piece by Kurt Weill for the musical Lady in the Dark, was a hilarious story about a woman whose decisive nature leads her through life from one disaster to another, and “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” is a disturbingly funny piece of satire by Tom Lehrer. Beyer brings rich, sophisticated depth to numbers like these with his lyrical baritone—it is handsome and robust, shaded with an airy showmanship that was perfect for the space and the repertoire.
Being able to hear these two powerhouse voices was certainly a treat, but in this context, it was particularly special. Here, they gleefully let their hair down in order to provide an evening of mirthful, unassuming music-making. Along with brilliant piano accompaniment from Kate Stevens, it is clear that they all were having fun with each other and with the audience.
As the Cliburn Sessions continues to provide a “classically alternative music scene” for artists and audiences in Fort Worth, their latest concert featuring Pine and Beyer effectively demonstrated the program’s merit and influence. The artists, in a relaxed, intimate environment, provided a sold-out room with simple, good music and lovely time.