Eric Yves Garcia Trio

March 7, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

Eric Yves GarciaVocalist and pianist Eric Yves Garcia is in jazz mode in his current gig at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, and it suits him. Backed by two talented and playful musicians—guitarist Nick Russo and bassist Ritt Henn—he sings some of the most familiar titles from the Great American Songbook with an obvious enthusiasm for musical improvisation. Watching him close-up between numbers, I got the sense that he chooses the song order and tempos and keys with the same “let’s see what feels right here” spirit that he uses when he’s actually jamming.

There’s a kind of dichotomy in Garcia’s stage presence in this gig that lends him a touch of mystery. He strikes a polite attitude that suits the pedigree of the room. He dresses nattily, his posture would make a parent proud, and his diction while performing is refined. On the other hand, there is a mischievous element at play, especially in Garcia’s banter with his audience. On the night I saw him, he told some rather boisterous young female listeners that his Twitter account was “@BobbyShort.” Later, with a straight face, he said of Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”: “I wrote that in college. I’ve been saving it up.”

Garcia has pleasing, easygoing vocals that can turn from cool to flirtatious to tenderly romantic. His keyboarding can be aggressive (as with his boisterous rendition of Fats Waller and Andy Razaf’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” where, at the set I heard, he all but battered the ivories at times). But he also adds thoughtful embellishments when he improvises, such as a lovely, downward trickling run following the lyric “the moon descended” on Irving Berlin and Beda Loehner’s “The Song Is Ended (but the Melody Lingers On).”

Taking risks on a song is something Garcia and his fellow musicians don’t shy away from. Their bluesy take on “Why Can’t You Behave?” (Porter again) diverged so far from the written melody line as to be almost unidentifiable. I found it pleasing in a slightly oddball way, but it certainly might not have been to everyone’s taste. On the other hand, I can’t imagine anyone who would not have been pleased by the trio’s elegiac, almost mournful interpretation of “It Could Happen to You” (Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen). I would have expected Garcia to sing the number in breezy, upbeat fashion, but I’m glad he took the tack he did—for me, “It Could Happen” was one of the show’s highlights. I found it movingly sad.

Russo and Henn seem to have a blast with Garcia, trying out riffs that amuse and startle the others. Henn bows rather than plucks the strings at surprising moments—for instance, during a rambunctious “Get Out of Town” (yet one more Porter). Russo often wears a beatific look on his face as he plays. He puts down the guitar and picks up the banjo for some numbers, helping to create a vintage sound. One such number at the set I saw was “I Want to Be Happy” (Vincent Youmans, Irving Caesar, from No, No, Nanette). Tweaking Caesar’s lyric, Garcia sang “How come I can’t give some to you?” The “some” in the lyric refers to “mirth,” but the line came across as a sexy come-on that would have tempted poor Nanette to whisper back a ready “yes, yes.”

Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle  –  Sundays through March 30

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. His features and reviews have appeared in such publications as American Theatre and Back Stage and on BistroAwards.com. As a dramaturg he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. His stage adaptation of Henry James's novel The Tragic Muse was part of the Gilded Stage Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse in January 2014.

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  1. I just adore listening to and watching Eric perform!

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