What a pleasurable evening at Don’t Tell Mama on March 7th!  A lively, cabaret show, with the emphasis on jazz, sung by Marya Zimmet, a gifted song stylist, worthy of much attention.  Although just recently on the scene, Marya is a MAC Award Nominee in the female debut category.

She treated each song with feeling and communicated infectiously to her audience. “Feels Right” well-describes the show as noted by the audience response. Marya’s opening number, “Something’s Coming”(Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim), flowed smoothly with many jazz inflections, highlighted by several of her graceful hand gestures. In her patter, Marya mentioned she had trouble concentrating around an old teacher she had known, and sang, “You Go To My Head” to illustrate her point.  She sang with clear tones and good control.   Although she spoke of her ex-teacher with wry humor, I did feel she might have elaborated further on their relationship.  In the title song, “Feels Right,”  Musical Director Don Rebic livened up the mood with a melodious piano solo.

The following pieces  – - “Cold” (Annie Lenox) and “Calling You” (Bob Telson)  - – were emotionally charged and delivered by the songstress with a passionate flair. On a lighter note, “Bye, Bye Blackbird” (Ray Henderson/Mort Dixon) was catchy and fast-paced.  Marya’s scatting flowed and added an interesting interlude to the song.

The musicians played a great solo on “Taking a Chance on Love” (Vernon Duke/John La Touche & Ted Fetter), while Marya took off with some good jazz licks, leaving the audience moving with the rhythmic rendition.

There was an excellent bass solo, by Dick Sarpola, in “No More Blues” (Antonio Carlos Jobim/English lyrics by Jon Hendricks and Jesse Cavanaugh).

Marya’s final song, “The Way You Look Tonight” (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields), disarmed the audience  with its expressive charm.  Her wonderful musicians, Don Rebic, Musical Director and Dick Sarpola on bass, provided her with wonderful support  throughout the evening.

There was something for everyone.  An evening of great jazz and Marya Zimmet’s intimacy with the audience makes this a must-see show.   I rate this a definite “YAY!”

... Marya Zimmet is one of those many unknown cabaret newbies with a dream who is passionate about singing and was able to pull together all the elements necessary to make her recent debut at Don’t Tell Mama. Having heard Zimmet hold her own pretty well at a couple of open-mics around town (“Wednesday Night at the Iguana” and “The Salon,” for example), I decided to catch her act without any intention of writing a review. But as she reached the middle of her opening number, Leonard Bernstein’s “Something’s Coming,” I was so surprised by her sweet, jazzy interpretation of the song and her adorable and charming stage manner I whipped out my pen and started taking notes. My instincts told me that “Could Be, Who Knows,” there would be something about this show and this performer that would just feel right.

In a sporty, yet sexy sleeveless white blouse over black pants, and a hairstyle reminiscent of Dorothy Hamill during her Olympic skating heyday, Zimmet followed “Something’s Coming” with a breathy version of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek.” With a relaxed, conversational way with patter, she related growing up in San Francisco on a commune with an activist mom and listening to Joni Mitchell records as a teenager. When Marya delivered a sweet rendition of Mitchell’s “All I Want,” you could see her as that 14-year-old dreaming of being the famous folk singer. Then an adorable story about having a crush on one of her college professors led to the languid torch song “You Go to My Head.” While such a number is usually better suited to more powerful cabaret voices, Zimmet pulled it off, as she did with the bluesy “Feels Right” and a jazzy “Bye, Bye Blackbird” (including a surprisingly strong scat riff). She also exhibited an aching vulnerability on Annie Lennox’s “Cold,” and showed a flair for humor on Nellie McKay’s “I Wanna Get Married.” As a group, the threesome were particularly effective on “Calling You” from Bagdad Café, which featured a beautiful bass, piano and vocal accompaniment, and on Antonio Jobim’s “No More Blues,” during which Frank Ponzio provided funky percussion by banging on the side of the piano to Zimmet’s acappella vocal... Zimmet’s show could be an inspirational primer for any inexperienced cabaret singer to follow. Early in the show, Marya told the audience that she “takes my assignments seriously” and, as part of her research, she attended many cabaret performances. The homework paid off. Zimmet’s gig was more engaging and entertaining than some shows I’ve seen this year from more experienced performers. She hired a fine director in Barry Kleinbort, a solid backup band in Frank Ponzio on piano and Boots Maleson on bass, and the three men obviously figured out how to get the best out of the performer. Zimmet and company selected songs that she loved, but that were also arranged well for her voice and range.

By the time Marya finished “No More Blues,” her finale “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and encore, “The Way You Look Tonight,” were practically an anti-climax. Marya Zimmet had come through her debut cabaret show looking very good indeed. In fact, pretty much everything felt right.  

Marya Zimmet’s debut cabaret show is one to be very proud of, and she’s definitely a person to keep an eye on!

She opened her show with a sultry, sexy and beautifully arranged version of “Something’s Coming,” before moving into a jubilant “Cheek to Cheek,” where her emotional connection was superb.  Zimmet’s clear, warm voice can cover a wide range and various styles.  She has a truly lovely, very tight vibrato, and a beautiful clarity to her upper notes.  It’s obvious jazz has been a big influence musically, as exemplified by her arrangements, musicians and scatting, but she’s no stranger to folk and light rock, proven by her stunning delivery of Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want.”  Other highlights included her title song, “Feels Right” (Curtis Stigers/Larry Goldings), Annie Lennox’s “Cold,” and a fab arrangement of Jobim’s “No More Blues” (“Chega de Saudade”).

Zimmet’s chat was personal, but not too personal – just enough of an insight into her past and present to be intriguing, without divulging too much.   I still want to know if she’ll ever hear from Mr. Funaro, and what happened with the guru.

She has an understated, yet intoxicating, charm.  She’s low key, but witty, bright and funny, and her humor sneaks up on you before fully embracing you and going to your head "like a kicker in a julep or two.”   She’s also pretty, sexy, poised, educated, and…single, as she tells us in “I Wanna Get Married” (Nellie McKay).

I was particularly impressed with how Marya dealt with one particular audience member, whose phone went off during the first song, who then decided to sing along in the second song.  Marya handled it comically, and sternly, without ever seeming upset.  In fact, this same person decided to leave the show in the middle of a song, and walked straight across the stage in front of Zimmet, who didn’t flinch once, even while this patron made a fuss at the back of the room to pay her bill.  If that’s not the sign of a true professional, I don’t know what is.

Barry Kleinbort’s deft direction kept things moving along, and her musical director, Frank Ponzio, and bassist, Boots Maleson, gave her terrific support.

Keep an eye out for future performances.  If Zimmet has a return engagement, go.  You won’t be disappointed, and you might just discover a new talent, as I have.