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Jazz Reviews : Podewell Recalls Woody at Perino's

November 20, 1987|LEONARD FEATHER

Polly Podewell: The name somehow suggests someone out of the big band era ("and now our lovely vocalist steps up to the microphone--here is pretty Polly Podewell"). As it turned out, the singer in question, who appeared at Perino's over the weekend, can indeed claim those credentials after a fashion, having worked with Woody Herman and Benny Goodman (but toward the end of their careers).

Saturday evening her opening show was dedicated to Herman, even including a rewrite of "Thanks for the Memory" in which her original lyrics evoked names of sidemen from the distant past. The result, though well intentioned, was a little too esoteric to be meaningful to the average listener.

Podewell then took a leaf out of the early Herman band book in the form of Frances Wayne's hit, "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe," bringing to it just the right touch of nostalgia. But her sound and style were better showcased in "Early Autumn," a Ralph Burns melody popularized by Stan Getz with the Herman orchestra and later equipped with typically sensitive lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Later in the show she moved away from the Herman repertoire to combine "I Fall in Love Too Easily" and "Like Someone in Love" in a neatly organized medley.

A pleasant, unspectacular performer who now and then hinted at the late Mildred Bailey with her light vibrato, Podewell was intelligently accompanied by pianist Nat Pierce, himself a longtime Herman associate, and by the bassist John Leitham, recently praised here for his work with Ed Shaughnessy.

She performs at Perino's through Sunday.

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