Cafe society's most exalted saloon singers, Bobby Short and Hugh Shannon, have vintage performances available on video.
Veterans of New York's fanciest lounges, as well as jet-set watering holes in Paris and London, Short and Shannon serve up their favorites on these V.I.E.W. releases. Between songs, each talks about his life, lifestyle and people in their lives, giving the viewer a much better perspective on the men who sit behind the grand pianos.
But most of all, the videos are packed with classics that have charmed listeners for decades.
On "Bobby Short at the Cafe Carlyle" (75 mins., $29.95, 1-800-843-9843), Short serves up his selected mix of what he likes to do best: "a little jazz, some blues, toy with a ballad or song of the day, and always a few barroom favorites."
Short, playing in the lavishly decorated lounge at the Carlyle, loves calling his New York base "this cheap hotel." And he confesses that he best describes himself as a saloon singer.
Shannon's video is entitled "Hugh Shannon: Saloon Singer" (57 mins., $29.95). Hailed as the elder statesman of saloon singers and prototype of sophisticated singing pianists, he played in many top East Side spots as well as his traditional summer gigs in the Hamptons. His video performance was taped at David K's just before his death in 1982 at the age of 59.
As a youngster out of Missouri, Shannon was crazy about Billie Holiday and went to every performance he could make. Shannon once sang at a party for Duke Ellington, prompting Holiday to exclaim, "Man, you don't sound like nobody! You gotta sing." Short himself lauded Shannon by remarking: "Hail to the chief."
What these distinctive performers have in common, of course, is their ability to captivate.
Among Shannon's 22 offerings are "Piano Man," "I Can't Get Started With You," "I Love a Piano," "Baltimore Oriole," "As Time Goes By," "Send in the Clowns" and "You'd Better Go Now."
On Short's list of 25 are "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," "Too Marvelous for Words," "Bojangles of Harlem," "Posin'," "New York Is My Personal Property," "Say It Isn't So," "How's Your Romance," "I'm Satisfied" and "Cuba."