And So It Was Ritt Another jazz artist, singer-songwriter-bass player Ritt Henn, has also recently made his solo debut: He's been performing his act at The Duplex and will likely bring it back again later this year. This tall drink of jazz is the next generation's Jay Leonhart. His songs are quirky, fresh, and wonderfully entertaining -- and so is he. Henn has a playful sense of humor that emerges when and where you least expect it, but there's also something genuine about his songs. He may be pulling your leg but he's also plucking your heartstrings, and that's what makes him so distinctive as a jazz artist. The idiom is jazz but the art form is decidedly cabaret because his songs are finally about the lyrics and the understated passion with which he delivers them.
Ritt Henn has a CD that cries out to be owned by folks who are hungry to discover new talent. It's called Ritt Henn: Goin' Back, and once you hear it, you'll certainly want to seek him out. We see hundreds of shows every year in the hope of stumbling upon an important new artist. It doesn't happen very often, but in the person of Ritt Henn, our stumbling has definitely paid off.
STAGE Bistro Bits Jan 13-19,
In the case of bassist-singer-songwriter Ritt Henn, he has skillfully backed up many a cabaret artist on bass fiddle. So how does he get noticed as a solo artist? Making his cabaret debut in "A Man & His Bass" recently at The Duplex, he proved he's capable of a lot more than just fiddling around. He also took more comedic chances than Dame Edna at a Young Republicans rally. With...John DiPinto at the piano and serving as occasional backup singer, the clever, tongue-in-cheek songs recalled Dave Frishberg. That, fused with an Elvis Costello twang, made for solid entertainment from one who revealed many heretofore hidden talents. The shocker is that he waited so long to take center stage.
There were many highlights in a show that neophytes could learn from. For instance, after belting his riotous "March to the NYC Cabaret Debut," he crooned a sweet "Helen Keller & Me," with DiPinto on accordion, and then melted the room with a stunning ballad, "Sleep the Sleep of Angels." He's a master at being wry with a quirky lyric. Then he surprises you with a warm ballad sans bass, like "Just Another Glimpse of You." A true original, Henn is a find and one of the most original artists of the year. One might think of him as the David Letterman of cabaret. Giving his audience what they want, this delightfully intelligent master of irony and the absurd in song is off to a great start. Catch him when he returns in March.
Ritt Henn has shared the stage with many a cabaret performer, but always as a side man. This talented bass player displayed his strong performing and songwriting chops, however, in his cabaret debut at The Duplex. Entitled "A Man and His Bass" (although Ritt deliciously subtitled it "The Lights and Sound of Thomas Honeck"), Ritt, with John DiPinto at the piano, put together a show that was comical, often irreverent, and always entertaining. If one needs labels, Henn's writing style can be best described as 'Randy Newman meets David Frishberg' as his songs are quirky, jazzy, and never go where one expects them to.
Highlights include "Happy" (a tongue in cheeky number that recalls Monty Python's "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life"), "Go To Her" (a 60s Motown influenced number about the perils of visiting a sick girlfriend), "Rapunzel" (a hysterical post modern/feminist take on a very self-sufficient tower dweller), and "Change Sucks" (a jazzy number that is an emotional counterpoint to "Caroline, or Change"). The strongest number, however, was "Just Another Glimpse of You," in which Ritt stepped away from behind the bass and presented himself at his most emotionally naked and honest best. It's a beautiful love ballad and displays depths that Henn should seriously look into exploring further.
While "A Man and His Bass" has finished its very limited run at The Duplex, plans are underfoot for it to return in September. If it does, I urge you to attend as it presented some of the most fun I have had in a cabaret show in quite a while. For more information on Ritt, as well as a schedule of performance dates, visit his website: www.ritthenn.com.