"Now don't get too carried away," cautioned singer Barbara Cook to the highly enthusiastic audience that greeted the start of her two-week engagement at Charlie's Tuesday night. Fat chance. Ever since the mid-1970s, when she traded her rich past in Broadway musical comedies for a promising future as a pop singer, Cook has steadily built up a tenacious and vocal following.
The fans run no risk of disappointment at Charlie's. In fact, Cook's skills -- her all-enfolding warmth, her effortless diction, the sheer majesty of her voice -- are enhanced by the intimate supper club setting. She still has that amazing soprano with its bell-like clarity, but in the lower register her voice has taken on weight and color. If a lark had guts, it might sing like this.
Backed by her adroit pianist and arranger, Wally Harper, and a bass player, Cook provides a solid hour of music, some of it familiar from her records, some of it new, but all of it characterized by the same freshness of attack. Whether she's taking on an old chestnut ("Paper Moon") or a contemporary ballad ("I Will Wait for You" in French), her voice is charged with the promise of tumultuousness. And no one has as much fun with the sass of "Sweet Georgia Brown" or the ripe innuendo of "I Can Cook."
The fans are right to cheer. Few cabaret singers these days provoke the chills that Cook does merely with an easy dip of her voice. Even fewer manifest the abundant sense of joy she takes in her work. The lady's singing is sublime, the joy infectious.