Photo courtesy of David Andrako

Grammy Award-winner Steve Tyrell made a buoyant return to the Café Carlyle this past Tuesday. He is a clear favorite of the venue. For thirteen years (including this past December) he has had sold-out engagements during the month-long holiday slot at the Carlyle, succeeding the late Bobby Short. Tyrell is back at the Café for a five-night engagement featuring many songs from his new album A Song For You.

Tyrell is known for his many highly successful Billboard top five albums featuring American Standards, and the evening was heavily weighted towards this repertory. Such diverse composers as Fats Waller (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”), Harold Arlen (“Come Rain or Come Shine”), and Jerome Kern (“The Way You Look Tonight”) were memorably represented. The evening closed with the perpetually poignant “You Were Always on My Mind” (James/Christopher/Carson) with some interesting stories from Tyrell about how the song was composed and ultimately became a big hit for Willie Nelson.

A major highlight of the evening occurred when Tyrell talked about working as a young producer with Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick to create such mega-hits as “The Look of Love” and “Alfie”.  A number of expectant “ahs” were heard throughout the audience during the first couple of measures of “I Say a Little Prayer for You.”

Tyrell grew up in Houston and there definitely is a certain element of Texas swagger and confidence in his stage presence which is entirely fine. The buoyancy of the performance that I mentioned in the first sentence was all the more impressive as the singer and his band had apparently flown in from San Francisco the previous evening. (And had a 6 am wake-up call that morning to appear on Fox TV’s morning show.)

Mr. Tyrell had one of the largest bands of any performer I have seen at the Carlyle – Quinn Johnson (piano and musical director), David Finck (bass), Bob Mann (guitar and arranger), Kevin Winard (drums), David Mann (saxophone and flute) and Jon Allen (keyboards and vocals).  With a relatively large ensemble it would have been easy to overwhelm the fairly small space, but what struck me throughout the evening was the transparency, subtlety and sophistication of Bob Mann’s arrangements. They were the types of scores that students would study if they wanted to learn how to successfully and memorably arrange for a jazz ensemble.

In addition to a prominent career as a singer, songwriter and producer, Tyrell has also, of course, had a significant career in Hollywood, appearing in such films as Mystic Pizza, That Thing You Do, and Out of Sync. His prominence as a vocalist rose when he had a memorable turn singing “The Way You Look Tonight” in Father of the Bride.

During the course of the performance, an executive from Warner Music presented Tyrell with a plaque commemorating the fact that his new album A Song For You has gone to No. 1 on the Traditional Jazz charts. Tyrell will continue to sing and delight his audiences at the Carlyle with many of the songs from this album through April 14.

Upcoming engagements at the Carlyle include Megan Hilty who will be appearing at the Carlyle from April 17-28. And Woody Allen appears every Monday evening through June 11.

The Café Carlyle is located at 35 East 76th St. in Manhattan.