Lina Orfanos’ “For the Love of Ella” was truly a diamond in the rough of New York cabaret shows. Lina usually sings in other languages, namely Greek, Spanish, and Hebrew. She is a world music vocalist, but really found her way to the heights of cabaret quality with her Ella Fitzgerald tribute show at Metropolitan Room on Sunday, June 15, 2014. Her ethereal sound and exquisite attention to detail had me dancing in my seat and tearing up at the same time. She can at once capture the mystery of Enya, the sweetness of Ella, and the vocal acrobatics of Ann Hampton Callaway.
Orfanos is a true vocalist. She has a full-bodied, lady-like, fluid soprano. I would even go as far as to call her the “bel canto songstress of cabaret” because of her legato lines and pretty sound. She is a find. She is akin to Ella in the sugary texture of her sound, which is the essence of both Orfanos’ and Fitzgerald’s vocal personalities. However, she also has an assertive belt and understands completely the complex dynamics of jazz singing — she is not a one-note performer. You can tell that Orfanos spent her formative years in the Children’s Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera and attended Westminster Choir College. She sings from her soul and does not choose style over gorgeous sound. But, the cool part about listening to Orfanos, is that she sings beautifully and is still a highly stylized jazz singer.
Orfanos’ band was one of the best I have ever heard in cabaret. Not only were they great musicians, but the addition of harmonica a la Stevie Wonder and accordion a la Paris or your favorite French bistro added a lot to the dynamics of the sound. Also, they used the samba beat a lot, which is my favorite for cabaret and had amazing arrangements by guitarist, Spiros Exaras. Other band members were Gary Schreiner on piano, accordion, and harmonica, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Richard Morales on drums.
Songs covered in this fabulous show were “Nature Boy,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Summertime,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Blues in the Night,” and a re-written version of “Georgia on My Mind” with new lyrics dedicated to Lina’s father for Father’s Day, among others. I highly recommend Lina Orfanos’ show to a newbie or seasoned cabaret goer who wants to hear something uniquely gorgeous. Catch her this month at Metropolitan Room.
By Danielle Miceli