Jarrod Spector

April 6, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

Jarrod SpectorAt the top of Jarrod Spector’s rockin’ show “A Little Help from My Friends,” he tells us that he is a music nerd and that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how one generation of tenor has led to the next generation. He then proceeds to deliver two hundred years of music effortlessly, from “Una furtiva lagrima” (Gaetano Donizetti, Felice Romani) to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (Adam Clayton, David Evans, Paul Hewson, Laurence Mullen). Very few singers could carry off all of this music so brilliantly. Spector’s pure tenor is as smooth and clear on music sung by Enrico Caruso to music by U2. In fact, there is a great deal to praise about Spector’s show: his voice, the music and vocal arrangements, the band.

Spector is charismatic. I wish the stage were larger because you can tell that he can really cut a rug. We get a little taste and tease of this when he accompanies himself at the piano on Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and dances back to center stage to deliver a thrilling “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (Elton John, Bernie Taupin).

He sings the blues on “Sweet Home Chicago” (Robert Johnson) in tribute to the singer/composer. His rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Leigh Harline, Ned Washington) is magic. His tribute to Little Jimmy Scott on “Unchained Melody” (Alex North, Hy Zaret), accompanied only by piano, is my favorite song of the night. It’s been sung by so many greats, but Spector puts his unique stamp on it with an arrangement with changes that span several decades of sound. He is a delight.

Anyone who watched American Idol’s Season Five witnessed every contestant, from Chris Daugherty to season-winner Taylor Hicks, bomb on Stevie Wonder week. Spector puts them to shame on Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” (So many singers overdo melisma, riffing and running till the song is lost. Spector can riff with the best of them but he understands that Stevie doesn’t riff. Stevie is scaling: using his voice as a musical instrument without imitating another instrument.)

Spector’s “Friends” for the evening are: pianist/musical director Adam Ben-David, who arranged all the music; Mat Fieldes on bass; guitarist Jake Schwartz, who does some incredible solos throughout, with a special turn on “Sweet Home Chicago”; and Sean McDaniels on drums. And the incredible back-up singers, each with a star turn during the evening: Rachel Stern, Teresa Gattison, and John Edwards, who has a killer range from falsetto to bass.

With a few adjustments, the show would be even better. There is a saying in show business: “Make ’em want it, and then give it to them.” Jarrod Spector is known for his tenor sound. So, if it were me, on the opening number, “With A Little Help from My Friends” (John Lennon, Paul McCartney), I would not use that signature sound until the last chorus. I think the tension in the audience would build to such a peak that when he hit the first high note, they would burst into applause. He can afford to make us wait for it.

The arrangement on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is hot; the tempo change at the last chorus rocks it out. However, it has too many false endings. Spector tells a great story about Meat Loaf being the original artist intended to sing Jim Steinman’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”; the song, however, went to Celine Dion. Spector does it as a duet with Rachel Stern, but I would have much preferred to hear him cover Celine Dion. He certainly has the chops for it.

There is little if anything not to enjoy about listening to Jarrod Spector sing. Nonetheless, I would cut the Bee Gees’ “If I Can’t Have You”; it’s the only song that wasn’t music to my ears because he put on a Bee Gees voice that was not pleasing. Finally, the songs at the end are not as dynamic as the ones that preceded them, and the show has three endings. These should be easy fixes for Spector and his director, Eric Michael Gillett, to make.

Spector thanked his vocal coach, Katie Agresta, who was in the house the evening I attended. She may keep him in shape, but that voice is a gift from the divine. This is a fabulous evening of great music, sung by an exceptionally gifted singer and performer. This show is ready for the road! In the audience were many parents with children between 12 and 15 years of age. The kids were singing along and bobbing to songs that were written before they were a star in anyone’s eye. A great time was had by all.

“A Little Help from My Friends”
54 Below  –  March 10, 23, 24, 31, April 9, May 16  

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Tonya Pinkins is an award-winning actress, singer, writer, director, author and mother of four. She enjoys the arts in all their forms.

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