I’m a little young to recognize Judy Collins from her heyday. Yet, I feel as if she is an old friend. Her music has been a life long companion to me. She is one of those artists who has shaped American culture, and given us a sound track to our lives.
This September marks the 6th anniversary of Judy Collins playing at the iconic Café Carlyle. Collin’s career has spanned over 50 years. At the age of 22 she released her first Album A Maid of Constant Sorrow, which marked the beginning of a thirty five year association with Jac Holzman and Elektra Records.
Judy Collins is noted for her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now which has been entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1975 her version of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns won the Grammy for Song of the Year. This is a woman who in spite of her 50 year’s in the music industry hasn’t slowed down at all. She is still touring with her music, has her own record label Wildflower Records, has authored books, is a keynote speaker, filmmaker, and helps mentor other artists in their careers. And at the age of 73 still has the voice of an angel. I swear after 50 years her voice has barely aged.
Walking into the Café Carlyle which is located inside The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, is like walking back 30 or more years into a New York dream. The Café Carlyle is in every aspect old New York. Romantic table top lights flicker as diners sip fine wine and savor perfectly cooked meals. The hand painted murals on the walls seem to dance and interact as sophisticated waiters serve old style cocktails and scrumptious deserts. There is laughter, excited conversations mingling with the sound of knives and forks clinking on china. The only break in conversations is the silence that comes when the perfectly cooked food is savored. I had one of the tenderest flavorful filets of my life; juicy and rich. Along with a deep red wine that flowed all evening. Followed by a perfect piece of rich New York cheese cake.
The intimate setting of the beautiful Café Carlyle only added to the anticipation felt waiting for Collins to take the stage. She entered with her guitar hung around her neck, dressed in all white, giving off the air of an art deco angel. A tuxedo styled sequined blazer, sequined blouse, long skirt, diamond earrings, crystal necklace and silver shoes. Her hair now white still long and flowing and those famous eyes still a piecing blue.
In no time she had us in the palm of her hand, strumming on her guitar, singing her magic. Even taking her time to stop and tune her guitar all the while pulling us into the experience with a story about how Ravi Shankar makes tuning his instrument into just another song. Weaving her stories into songs, Collins interlaced anecdotes from her life and other famous folk she met along the way. Mesmerizing us with hits like: Send in the Clowns, Both Sides Now, Amazing Grace, and Judy Blue Eyes. Leaving her guitar to play the piano and sing a song written for her mother In the Twilight. At times she was backed in her singing with her amazing Musical Director Russell Walden and during The Farewell to Tarwathie the great whales lent their voices to hers. Collins had us giggling along with her when she spoke of the 'Folk Police' who during her career did not approve of her more rock inspired/or any non folk choices. My companion said he felt as if he were sitting in her living room at a small dinner party where she was the perfect hostess. I must add to support his experience there were a couple of times the audience was so enraptured and at ease they burst into song along with her.
If you haven’t had the privilege and I do mean privilege to hear Judy Collins live. Quit reading this, get on the phone and book your table. You will not be disappointed.
We were truly mesmerized by the world Collin’s created for us. She sang to our common experiences, to our shared loves, losses and hopes. For me it was almost a transcendental experience. I found myself silently weeping as the power of music and it’s favored mistress cracked open my soul and poured in some light.
The Café Carlyle @ The Carlyle Hotel, A Rosewood Hotel
35 East 76th South at Madison Avenue
September 11 - 29, 2012
Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:45 pm
$110 music charge ($75 at bar) Tuesday – Thursday evenings
$135 music charge ($85 at bar) Friday and Saturday evenings