By Wayne Harada
Shari Lynn is an entertainment hyphenate —a singer, an actress, an educator, a writer of theatrical tributes to iconic composers, and a producer.
Her first Blue Note Hawaii performance this month surely won’t be her last. She tapped her multi-pronged roots — scoping the All American songbook, her background as a club singer and a theater performer— to produce a well-rounded package of everything she is.
Oldies, movie tunes, stage tidbits, personal favorites — her vision and versatility are bountiful and broad. And Shari hits all the right notes, figuratively and literally; with her insights derived from her meticulous research, she mines songs that tell a story or hit a personal emotion. And she had all throttles rolling, with rich and robust rewards.
With pianist Jim Howard, bassist Bruce Hamada and drummer Darryl Pelligrini, Shari becomes an instrument of communication, opening her heart and her songbook, with a jazz thrust to suit the Blue Note environs.
It all works. She does, too.
She opened her set with “It’s Today,” from “Mame,” and quickly put her imprint on it. And when she delivered this line, “I know that this very minute has history in it, we’re here,” it’s seemed that her hidden secret of gigging at the Blue Note was an unforgettable personal milestone.
Thus, the rollout of such familiar titles — “The Best Is Yet to come,” “Control Yourself,” “I’ve Got Rhythm”— seemed to be a personal shout-out of her imminent future, her style, and her soul.
When she was not chirping, she was declaring her posture as an active figure in music and stage: “My mission is to keep them (the old standards) alive.
She routinely mentioned names like Johnny Mercer and George and Ira Gershwin, crediting the sources of “Something’s Gotta Give” and “An American Paris,” delivering fresh renderings of these classics. And when she shared “Little Jazz Bird,” a George Gershwin novelty, she did a bit of scat singing to create the sounds of a chirping bird.
Shari had fun with snippets from “The Wizard of Oz,” singing a segment of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead,” which included a warm and earnest surprise: bassist Hamada vocalized on “If I Only Had a Brain,” earning roaring applause from the audience.
One of her sensuous signatures, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” enabled her to subtly and delicately showcase her vocal control and delivery, with stellar keyboard support from Howard. But she preceded the vocal by honestly recalling a little bright memory; early on, she innocently mispronounced the composer’s surname. Score points here for her transparency.
Clearly, Shari’s show was somewhat of a textbook primer — entertaining, educational, enlightening, endearing. As a daytime classroom teacher, she doesn’t preach; in her role as a club singer, she engages and takes her listeners along on her musical journey.
There was an instance of sentiment and tears, when she dedicated her performance to her very-often singing partner, Jimmy Borges; she said “the universe had other plans” for him at the moment (he’s battling lung cancer), with a footnote that he should rightfully been tapped to launch the Blue Note.
Teary-eyed, she sang one of his favorite tunes, Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary's “Here’s to Life,” which spoke volumes with these take-away words:
“Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.
“May all your storms be weathered
“And all that's good get better
“Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.”
That said it all.