Roslyn Kind: Coming Home
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College
April 28, 2012
Roslyn Kind is an authentic song artist and entertainer. The audience at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts was treated to a full hour-and-a-half of her fine voice and lively presence. Using her magnificent instrument, she beautifully rendered songs, "standards" and otherwise. Her infectious self-delight never faltered as she sang, conversationally spoke of growing up in a nearby Brooklyn neighborhood, and engaged with the audience as if the theater were her living room.
Ms. Kind is that breed of entertainer which sophisticated night-lifers would make it their business to see at the lavish "rooms" of old: El Morocco and the Persian Room in New York, or the Chez Paree in Chicago (all now long gone into history). Today we must to settle for the cabaret and the concert hall, and we are fortunate that a fine entertainer such as Ms. Kind is carrying on, making our forays to those modern venues incredibly inviting.
The distinctions of the art of popular singing are lost to the current generation. "Cosmetic singing" is just about all that one hears/sees currently. By that I mean, the singer sounds pleasant, looks nice or "hot," and goes through vocal manipulations that indicate emotion, but without conveying anything authentic. "Performance singing" has as many nuances as opera: It creates a world of experience for the listener, and enfolds them into it. What made Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, and Sinatra great would probably be lost on current listeners unacquainted with them. I am indeed thrilled that Ms. Kind is a living embodiment of a tradition overdue for greater exposure and revival.
An exciting aspect of Ms. Kind's performance is that there was no anticipating from what sources Ms. Kind would draw her material, which ran the gamut from Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash's "Speak Low" to John Lennon's "Imagine." The evening included an awesome arrangement of "Getting to Know You" from The King and I, which as far as I am concerned was worth the price of admission. Also presented were what I call "encapsulations," in which a central song is situated between verses of a totally different but thematically related one. My favorite of these was "Losing My Mind" from Stephen Sondheim's Follies, encapsulated by the pop tune "Going out of My Head," a Teddy Randazzo/Bobby Weinstein standard which was covered by nearly every singer from Petula Clark to Dr. John. Ms. Kind melded these two very different melodies with spellbinding grace.
She was equally at ease (and at peak) with the poignant "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" (Alan and Marilyn Bergman/Michel Legrand) and the naughty "All That Jazz" (Kander/Ebb), prior to which she performed an extended slinking strut across the stage to the song's introductory vamp, adding a touch of fresh whimsy to a oft-sung standard. Ms. Kind showed a sweet sentimental side with the song "At Times Like These," sung to a photo revealed to be her dearly departed pet dog. Someone else doing this song might get goofy with it, but not Ms. Roz. Her authentic sincerity kept that in check. The balance between ballads and up-tempo songs showed that there was some keen showmanship at play during the concert -- and that is not all.
Ms. Kind has a lovely voice -- actually a grand voice -- the capabilities of which were used with disciplined finesse. Unlike a relative of hers who also sings (and is ten years her senior), she has a gorgeous, rich lower register which she uses in delicate balance with her clear sailing high notes. Yes, she can "belt," but her belts are of the classic variety, with no over-arching nasality and no straining nor forcing for effect. This singer knows her instrument and applies this knowledge with an intelligence only the rarest of singers possess, and to great effect. This was clearly evident in her rendition of "Can You Read My Mind" (John Williams/Leslie Bricusse), the love theme from the 1978 film Superman. As with everything else Ms. Kind performed, her singing, her diction, and her intonation raised the song to a new dimension -- I was hearing it for the first time.
Musical director David Snyder's marvelous playing and inventive, beautiful renditions seamlessly supported Ms. Kind's performance, and the convivial rapport of singer and accompanist reinforced the harmonious feeling of the evening.
Those who honor fine performance singing and artistic showmanship, such as Roslyn Kind's, cannot help but leave the theater moved, uplifted, and most of all, thoroughly entertained by this enormously talented performer. - Jay Reisberg
Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, and bon vivant at large.