Before he became a multiple Tony Award winning Broadway songwriting great for his contributions to shows such as Sweet Charity, On the Twentieth Century, Barnum, and Little Me (book by Neil Simon), Cy Coleman was the toast of the New York’s 1950s cabaret scene, performing Great American Songbook standards in Gotham’s most exclusive boîtes. Reclaiming this early history, Harbinger’s single-CD reissue offers two long-forgotten Coleman albums from the late 50s plus four scratchy transcriptions (sourced from original vinyl of dubious quality) of Cy’s lively, romantic solo piano improvisations on evergreens from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Coleman the writer is absent here: A Jazzman’s Broadway features only songs from two Broadway show albums—Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg’s Jamaica (1957) and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (1959)—along with the South Pacific numbers. Working, respectively, with a small but potent combo and a rhythmically assured trio, Coleman offers spirited, credible renditions of the island- and Asian-inflected numbers, more than making up in personality for what little he lacked as a singular vocal stylist. While hardly transcendent, Coleman’s performances are nothing if not cool and hip to the nth degree. Dig?
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