Linda Kahn “Wait ‘Til You See What’s Next”
Sometimes, the minute you hear a singer you know that they are (in sound, in temperament, and in style) born to be a recording artist. Such is the case with Linda Kahn and her stunning new album, Wait Till You See What’s Next. After having abandoned performing for many years, Kahn made a return to singing with her debut cabaret show, Say Yes! last year, accompanied by classes and study and the requisite work. By happy circumstance, one of those classes was given by songwriter, pianist, and producer David Friedman, long renowned for his work with Nancy LaMott and many others. When he produced a one-off recording with Kahn, he realized that she was the real deal and should be making an album. His production wizardry and his taste and talent are evident everywhere on the project down to a rare turn as accompanist on a couple of tracks.
While the album would be worthwhile simply for the introduction of a remarkably talented singer, it is so much more than that. On the music side, it is a gallery of some of New York cabaret’s finest arrangers, accompanists, and musicians. Unlike many recordings featuring multiple music directors which can seem “cut & paste,” this one remains a cohesive and singular statement. It is a work of art. Exquisite song selections and arrangements abound. There is not a bad choice in the lot. Coming from one who does not always suffer medleys gladly, those included here are among the finest I have ever heard; each pairing is seamlessly interwoven so that the lyrics tell a new story that is uniquely Kahn’s, while honoring the integrity of each element. The thought and care and intelligence that went into them is thrilling and moving.
The title track, by Jason Robert Brown, is an openly joyous and hopeful introduction on which the lead vocal and the accompaniment and backing vocals by Kenneth Gartman manage to soften and warm the edges of what can sometimes be Brown’s overly self-conscious writing, and make it an exuberant mix of legit and pop. The presence of Christopher Denny on piano is always welcome, and his original, “Anywhere With You” reveals a hitherto unseen (at least by me) talent for composition, especially in Kahn’s delicate, touching rendition of its wistful, aching love story. Gregory Toroian takes over with an assist from Skip Ward on bass and Dave Silliman on drums, to guide the singer through the first of the medleys, transforming “Once Upon a Time” (Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, from All-American) and “There’s Always One You Can’t Forget” (Strouse, Alan Jay Lerner, from Dance a Little Closer) into an exquisite cameo of regret and memory. Pursuing the theme in a lighter vein, “Why Can’t I Forget” (Jeffrey D. Harris, Judy Barron), Kahn deepens the emotion of previous versions of the song while losing none of the self-deprecating humor inherent in the lyrics. Denny’s oft-praised, empathic piano matches her at every turn.
“Watch What Happens” (Michel Legrand, Jacques Demy, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) is presented at its most romantic and least frantic, and when it blends with “The Nearness of You” (Ned Washington, Hoagy Carmichael), it gives a welcome spine to what can often be a lugubrious standard. David Friedman’s piano is beautifully in tune with Kahn’s sound. Denny (with the assistance of Jay Leonhart on bass) takes a sprawling, dance-infused production number from the Judy Garland A Star is Born, “Gotta Have Me Go With You,” and transforms it into an infectious, irresistibly up-number to showcase another side of the singer’s prodigious talent. Pianist Michael Orland combines two beloved standards—the Gershwins’ “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and Arlen and Mercer’s “Come Rain or Come Shine”—in an arrangement that, while honoring their legacy, allows us to hear them in a fresh and irresistible way. Kahn’s vocals are perfection.
‘One of the two highlights of the recording follows—“Even Now” (Barry Manilow, Martin Panzer), with Toroian, Ward, and Silliman again backing the singer. The quiet, halting intensity of voice and piano is a heartbreakingly beautiful example of Kahn’s acting prowess. Beckie Menzie, in both arrangement and playing, caresses the passionately expressed reverie of “Summer with You” (John Kander) coupled with “The Summer Knows” (Michel Legrand, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, from Summer of ’42) as Kahn’s warm and wise vocals further the unspoken through-line of the album, remembrance and celebration. The always brilliant Alex Rybeck supplies not only the arrangement and piano, but also one half of the final medley—his lovely “Bless Your Heart” (written with Ira Gasman) that, in the singer’s sincere and openhearted delivery, grows from music box romance into a mature and emotionally rich “Always” (Irving Berlin).
David Friedman, no stranger to anthemic declaration, honors the great Julie Gold with a glorious take on her song, “The Journey,” allowing Kahn’s understated strength and passion to glow with determination. It is, for me, the other highlight of the album. The simple, folkish beauty of “Hello Road” (Debbie Hupp, Madeline Stone) closes the recording with a hopeful moment in time, captured in amber, polished to a heartwarming shine by Sean Harkness’s guitar and arrangement. I cannot praise Wait ‘Til You See What’s Next enough, so I am going to stop trying, and allow you to discover what other treasures it holds on your own while I eagerly contemplate what new delights Linda Kahn’s next album will offer.
About the Author
Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”