An Evening with Gary Williams

Gary Williams at Pizza On The Park

Reviewed at Pizza On The Park, London by Ted Hall

Ted’s Talk Special (cover story) I hadn’t been to POTP for some time. This visit was something of a revelation, due to a huge improvement in the food, service with a smile, pleasant staff. This commences to restore my belief in the original meaning of nightclub and the practise of it and as I understand there has been a change of management, it would seem that it is all down.

How good that all this sophisticated enjoyment was conjoined and equally matched with a scintillating show by Gary Williams, complete and in no way prejudicing the intimate cabaret club atmosphere, so that the whole audience was involved and enthralled. And he did just that, by talking directly to individuals in his audience, the young couple (and this was a predominately young audience, this writer excepted of course) assessing Gary for their wedding entertainment, banter back and forth with his agent, and our own part of four, also there by personal invitation in return for Sinatra Music Society invitations to Gary, very happy to hear a couple of plugs for SMS from him. Thank you much Mr Williams, Sir.

Well, to Gary’s performance. We know him well enough now that we know he will deliver a joyful, erudite performance. Joyful because of his delight, which he communicates to his audience, in singing the greatest songs ever written. Erudite because he has learnt the history of our music and the great performances of the past. He is very aware also of choice of material to suit the moment in his show, welcoming and greeting the people with hello, Young Lovers, Steppin’ Out With My Baby and How Do You Do? Telling us his thoughts about the show business life, bringing in his MD/pianist Clive Dunstall with I Love Piano. Moving on to mention Sinatra, giving his own reading of Nice ‘n’ Easy and Andy Williams (common name ins how business but not common talent) and putting his own stamp on Moon River, Music To Watch Girls By. Then reference to the musical theatre, Rodgers and Hart’s This Can’t Be Love, really swinging, and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes (reference to old leather lungs Ethel Merman). All these excellent renditions by Gary were not paying tribute as such but references to classic versions of the past. There’s no reason why new, innovative treatments shouldn’t be looked for and appreciated. Having said that to steer a course between esoteric and at the same time getting the message over to the not so knowledgeable.

Alec Wilder (“in amateurs took over”) next, Gary giving out with It’s A Fine Day For Walking Country Style, words by William Engvick; memories of Judy Garland and The Trolley Song with Gary. He sang through all the exotic locations of Route 66 then sang it again substituting the locations of northwest England, his home territory. In the exotic stakes northwest England lost out but Gary’s idea, and his delivery of it with a great sense of fun, ensured that the audience did not lose out, as evide3nced by its enjoyment, endorsed by its laughter.

After the interval Gap. Gary brought with him a very bright Oklahoma segment. Oh, What A Beautiful Morning (some straight singing here) and Surrey With The Fringe On Top and reminiscing about George Melly at POTP. Gary’s times in the Rat Pack led to The Lady Is A Tramp, a la Sinatra and leading on to Dean Martin I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Gary sotto voce, again lowering the ‘babys’. References to Stop The World I Want To Get Off gave us of course What Kind Of Fool Am I?, from Gary in great voice. Fly Me To The Moon became so called after Sinatra rocketed it on the moonshot. Gary delivered it as a beautiful swinging ballad so I prefer to refer to it by its original title In Other Words. Channelling his chat long romantic lines Gary gave us, in fine fettle, the Dick Haymes favourite The More I See You, DH classic baritone voice. Reference to The Wizard Of Oz, Gary produced a sprightly ring-a-ding reading of Ding Don, The Witch Is Dead. Probably the fastest number in the set. Next, Lover Come Back To Me, well rushed out by one and all! Sigmund Romberg (words by Oscar Hammerstein), I believe a somewhat unjustly criticised instigator of the genre. Then a very nice combination of Almost Like Being In Love/Thou Swell, Loewe & Lemer, Rodgers & Hart, plus the false exit. “You knew I was coming back” Gary then gave us a ‘be happy pep talk’ (we didn’t need it in these conditions!) And furthered it with Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries, anti-depression song 1931. Gary then swung us with Cole Porter (what better?) Just One Of Those Things to hugely deserved applause by the appreciative and now more aware audience.

What a great ensemble backing Gary. The Metro Swing Band, equally enjoying themselves as mush as him. He is wise enough to know that the audience wants to hear nags of solos. Clive Dunstall has worked with so many artistes, including that other top Mr. Williams. Luke Annesley, tenor sax, clarinet, and flute has such style in his attitude whilst playing that developing these attributes I believe he could become an act in his own right.

Don’t tell him I said that Gary! There were many fine integrations between Clive and Luke. James O’Carroll, who led the big band at the SMSLB 50th in 2005, playing drums, laying down the tempos and Joe Pettitt underpinning it all on double bass and coming in with solos; that always seems to me so hard to do. Everything was s(w)ung by Gary and these guys to hold the audience transfixed.

One word to sum up Gary’s performance – POLISHED. That was in his appearance and dress (others please note) but of course more than anything in his music, every attention to every detail of his craft.

How good to see young people enjoying the infectious adult ambiance of POTP but most of all enjoying THE MUSIC. All these signs indicate that the class, dignity and intelligence of our music is continuing to be recognised and appreciated by the next swing generation.

Gary secured the wedding booking, indicated by the young couple at the conclusion. They will always remember it. You can also find out more information on Gary via his website, which is www.garywilliams.co.uk