Wednesday, July 13, 2011

a cabaret chanteuse worth remembering.

i sort of believe in reincarnation.

otherwise, i've got no explanation
for the magnetic draw that the decade of
the 1940s has always held for me.

the style, the movies, & especially
the music.
a decent rendition of "i'll be seeing you"
literally brings tears to my eyes.

the great american songbook — penned by
arlen, berlin, carmichael, ellington, the gershwins,
hart, kern, mercer, porter, rodgers
& their contemporaries —
is my soundtrack of choice.

preferably sung by the amazing ella fitzgerald.
but i also especially enjoy dinah washington, julie london,
peggy lee, judy garland, doris day,
rosemary clooney, bing crosby & that cuckoo frank sinatra.

of course, they're all long gone.
but there's a handful of modern interpreters
doing right by the songbook in my opinion
of extremely high standards for jazz standards —
guys like harry connick, jr. & michael bublé, for sure.

but i've had a harder time finding women
who can hold their own up against the greats.

until mary cleere haran.

touted by the new york times as
"the most literate chanteuse of her generation,"
ms. haran was a witty, musically sophisticated cabaret singer
who spent almost 25 years sustaining
the spirit of the songbook in old-school nightclubs like
the russian tea room, feinstein's, cafe carlyle &
the oak room at the algonquin hotel.

she was known for not only her pure vocal style &
thoughtful lyric interpretations, but also
the upbeat personality & subdued glamour
she reflected on-stage.

a san francisco native, ms. haran came to new york city
during the late 70s, & made her cabaret debut in 1985.
in 1992, she made her recording debut &
released a total of six albums over the next decade.
she also performed on and off broadway,
& had a recurring television role.

in addition to her illustrious performing career,
ms. haran was a respected writer & researcher
who was involved in the production of several PBS specials.

so, by now i'm sure you've noted my use of past tense.
mary cleere haran died last february at the age of 58.

she was taking a break from the big apple, living in florida,
& was hit while riding her bicycle
by a car backing out of a driveway.
she was on life support for two days, but never regained consciousness.

she's survived by her son, jacob, &
six of her seven irish-catholic siblings.

i just discovered the news of her death a few days ago,
& even though it happened five months ago,
i still wanted to honor this inspiring performer
with whom i connected via songs from seventy or so years ago.

maybe our paths will cross a little closer,
mary cleere haran,
the next time around.

image source: mary cleere haran's facebook page.

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