The Zerounian Ensemble @ the Regattabar
With the Red Sox having clinched the pennant, a "world series" of a very different sort was played at the Charles Hotel. The Zerounian Ensemble once again took the stage of the Regattabar, performing a string of delightful folk and popular songs from across the globe.
Arranger and pianist, Sarkis Zerounian led a talented group of Classical and Jazz musicians, who provided top-notch accompaniment to his wife Julia, the lead singer of the group. Opening her program with two soulful Armenian songs, she sang with a solid technique, and total dramatic commitment. By the time she entered the French repertoire, and the famous Piaf standard "Chante-Moi.," she had thoroughly warmed up, and was in excellent voice. Her smoky mezzo proved ideal for a gripping Russian romance, and the Yiddish classic "Tumbalalaika." Rarely performed today, the traditional Spanish song "La Paloma" was quite effective, particularly in Sarkis' lovely arrangement.
A spirited Greek song by Manos Hadjidakis had the audience instantly clapping in rhythm. Another highlight of the evening was a Persian love song, which posed rhythmic complexities that would have completely baffled musicians less schooled in the idiom.
As has been its custom, the ensemble paid homage to the classic American songbook, on this occasion with Jimmy Van Heusen's "All the Way," and "Autumn Leaves," the latter sung both in English and the original French. These two pop standards proved true crowd-pleasers. Julia had fun with "Whatever Lola Wants," from "Damn Yankees," with the ensemble endowing the provocative number with a distinct Middle-Eastern flavor.
For most of the songs, the backup musicians were given opportunities to improvise instrument solos, which were often played in counterpoint to Julia's singing. And then came the encores. "Those Were the Days," had audience members joining in the chorus, and up on their feet. In fact, the Latin beat of the Dean Martin hit, "Sway," drove several fans of "Dancing with the Stars" to the back of the room, where they tore into intricate cha-chas.
The Zerounian Ensemble brings its unique international cabaret to the Regattabar about four times a year. It attracts everyone from actual speakers of the numerous languages represented, to Cambridge intellectuals and Brahmins ---and everyone leaves thoroughly entertained. To inquire about future Zerounian Ensemble engagements, or other upcoming musical events, contact: www.regattabarjazz.com; 617-661-5000.