Parker Scott

February 2, 2012

“Selecting Souvenirs”

Don’t Tell Mama  –  January 28, then monthly

In his new show, “Selecting Souvenirs” (also the name of the CD he released late last year), Parker Scott tells us that he recently realized that this was his fifteenth year of doing cabaret in New York and beyond. Now, after a break of a few years, he makes another splash with a monthly residency at Don’t Tell Mama (next show, February 17). It is a welcome return, indeed.

In this offering, Scott delivers mostly songs of love, mixing old favorites as well as new, along with a good representation of cuts from the recording. A voice teacher himself, he brings expert diction, a wondrous vocal range, and a flexibility that can go from operatic bari-tenor to wispy falsetto within a sixteenth-note’s time, making it look simple. Of course, good singing is more than just the voice. Fortunately, Scott is also a master of expression, and he probably has the best eyes in the business—not only can he convey heartbreak, longing, fury and more with his gaze, but he is fearless in his eye contact with the audience.

The show may be a bit ballad-heavy, but that’s where he shines. He brings such commitment to the material and variation to the phrasing that one could never complain that the show lags, despite the song tempos.

Scott bounds onto the stage with boyish enthusiasm, opening the show with the lively “Let it Sing” (Brian Crawley, Jeanine Tesori). In lesser hands, this earnest, feel-good, inspirational song might border on cheesiness, but, again, Scott so believes in its message, one can’t help but be moved to join him. A straight-up “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (Nat King Cole, Irving Mills) is an appropriate follow-up.

Although one might wonder if we need another rendition of “Misty” (Johnny Burke, Erroll Garner), Scott delivers one of the best versions I’ve ever heard—an emotional highlight early in the show, featuring an extended solo by the masterful Wells Hanley on piano. Scott sings beautifully, without ever trying to push or adorn with melisma, like so many singers today. His version of “Moon River” (Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini) is stunning, and the weaving of harmonies between him and Hanley is almost like peeking in on a private musical intimacy that both are clearly relishing. A more recently written ballad toward the end of the show, “You Are Here” (Gerry Geddes, Anthony Gaglione), has understated beauty and honesty. Another highlight is “Begin the Beguine” (Cole Porter). He finds the sensuous pulse of the song and, after a piano solo, comes back in with a surprising passion and vocal strength that can only be described as orgasmic. As an aside, let it be said that Parker Scott has enough confidence to hold a pause until just the right emotion is reached, before easing back into a vocal line.

Scott shows off his Italian with “Dove sei, amato bene” (Nicola Francesco Haym, George Frideric Handel). Gorgeous, but it could probably be cut a little, in service to the whole program. “Satan’s Little Lamb” (E.Y. Harburg, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen) is less successful—he has the pipes for it, but not the grit. Still, one applauds Scott’s conviction; he never gives less than his all.

Scott is a gracious presence on stage, a genuine pleasure to be around. He tells a touching story of visiting the AIDS memorial quilt several years ago, but he mostly lets the songs speak for themselves. For an encore, he prefaces the final song by declaring it “the most beautiful song ever written.” As he throws his heart, soul, and voice into “Annie’s Song” (John Denver), sans mic, he’s able to make a convincing case for what might seem an unlikely choice.

One piece of unsolicited advice. I’m no fashion maven, but I might suggest that Parker Scott replace the nice, colorful, paisley-type shirt, more fitting, perhaps, for a 1970s’ singer/songwriter. He is a class act all the way and should dress the part. A tux or fitted suit and he’d be right at home in those fancy, high-priced cabaret rooms uptown.

Gerry Geddes, Scott’s long-time collaborator, directs with the assurance that comes from knowing exactly how best to present the singer. Throughout, Scott is accompanied only by Wells Hanley on piano. When you have Wells Hanley playing for you, no other instrumentalist is needed. ‘Nough said.



About the Author

Kevin Scott Hall performed in cabaret clubs for many years and recorded three CDs, including “New Light Dawning” in 1998, which received national airplay. He also worked at the legendary piano bar, Rose’s Turn, and has taught cabaret workshops and directed shows since 1995. Kevin earned his MFA in Creative Writing at City College of New York. He is an adjunct professor in the Theatre and English departments at City College and Borough of Manhattan Community College. His novel, “Off the Charts!” was published in 2010, and his memoir, “A Quarter Inch from My Heart” (Wisdom Moon), in 2014. Kevin writes a monthly column and entertainment features for Edge Media Network, writes reviews for, and freelances for other publications.