R e v i e w s & P r e s s
FRESH VOCALIST…Nina Hennessey:
With A Song
by George W. Harris • January 23, 2014
Nina Hennessey displays her Broadway background in herapproach with an adroit team of Don Rebic/key, Jeff Ganz/b, Sean Harkness/g and Ray Marchica/dr. She has a conversational approach in her lower register that is intimate and warm as on the finger snapping “Sometimes Iʼm Happy” and the slinky “Tre Giorni son Che Nina”
while you can feel the actress in her on “Falling In Love WithLove” and “Morninʼ”. She has a cumulous softness when she goes in the upper range as on “New Valley” and when she teams up with Ganz on “Willow
Weep For Me.” Her diversity of delivery is impressive, and she makes each syllable count.
Talkin’ Broadway Sound Advice:The Top 10 Vocal CDs of 2013
Nina HennesseyWITH A SONG
Some discs cuddle up to my ear. Some make my mouth turn into a grin. Some make me sigh contentedly, knowing immediately that the initial engagement will lead to a longer relationship of welcome
auditory company. Nina Hennessey’s CD does all the above. The lady smiling on the cover seems to have a smile in her voice. She’s been in many shows on and off Broadway (recently the revival of Bye Bye
Birdie) and includes some theatre songs which she makes her own. For example, she takes “A Quiet Thing” from Flora the Red Menace and invests it with serenity and mature appreciation rather than being
overwhelmed with hushed awe. So, it makes sense for the melody to move and have a more rhythmic feel. When she gets to the line “But I don’t hear the drums and I don’t hear the band,” the accompaniment
has disappeared. Happily, we otherwise hear the drums and band playing smart and cozy teamwork; the drummer is “A” list Ray Marchica (conveniently co-producer and husband) and the band
includes simpatico and superb players: Don Rebic (keyboards, musical director), Jeff Ganz (bass) and Sean Harkness (guitar). Like much of the album, it’s cozy and hip, sensitive without sappiness.
It sounds simplistic, but With a Song feels like it’s meant as a record for listening. Too many discs come off as showcases for voice, transfers of grand performances things that might have worked well in
live concert settings but don’t translate to the recording medium. Nina knows how to get a feel, a groove, going and bring the listener in. A sense of joyful playfulness, girlish without being gushy, informs her
sound and style. Her approach and affect reminds me a lot of some wonderful recordings by Diahann Carroll, a longtime favorite. Implied winks and whispery words work wonders. She can coo, croon, and
swing. The microphone seems to love some voices; here’s one such voice.
The album is bookended by melodies of Vincent Youmans. It opens with “Sometimes I’m Happy,” establishing her taking it bright and breezy, as a somewhat coy kitten among cool cats of jazz. The last
track is the one winking at the album title, or vice-versa: “Without a Song.” Shorn of its corn and formality cum humbleness, “I’ll never know what makes the rain to fall” and all the “trouble and woe,” it feels
surprisingly contemporary. And it ends big with vocal heft. Appealing, eclectic song choices show a comfort zone that’s as wide as the ray of bright sunshine the album projects.-Rob Lester
NINA HENNESSEY/With aSong:The better half in a New York jazz household,Hennessey makes the leap
from Broadway and “Law and Order” repeats to jazz singer, center stage. Focusing on the
oldies, she recalls the great jazz thrushes without emulating them. Pretty much turning off her song radar at
the mid 60s, Hennessey goes up against pieces that cast along shadow but manages to claim her piece of the sun
therein quite handily. Just because you’re a pomo cat doesn’t mean you don’t need a swinging thrush of your own no matter how striking Ella, Peggy and all the rest that set the style were. A solid collection the jazz police won’t be stopping at the border anytime soon, her Broadway and acting chops serve her well here as she can belt without being overbearing.
DAILY FREEMAN SOUND ADVICE:
Nina Hennessey’s ‘With A Song’ simply brilliant
ARTIST: Nina Hennessey
ALBUM: “With A Song” (no label listed)
Nina Hennessey is a Broadway star, having appeared in “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Cats,” “Dreamgirls” and “Chess,” but certainly has plenty to say on her own.
“With a Song,” an impressive recording, includes Don Rebic (keyboards, MD) Jeff Ganz (bass) Sean Harkness (guitars) and drum master Ray Marchica.
In this album, she can belt with the best of them, but she can also dig deep into the heart of a song, with emotion as well as impeccable technique. Fittingly, this starts out with just her voice, beginning, “Sometimes I’m Happy” from “Hit The Deck” with perfect intonation and playful phrasing, and by the time the last
chorus comes around, you can almost see her high kick on the 2 and 4 with her outstretched arms.
Then she just keeps dazzlingly, from simmering “Girl Talk” (Harlow), big soaring notes in “It Ain’t Necessarily
So” (Porgy and Bess), and a gorgeous run through Rogers & Hart’s “Falling In Love with Love.”
The powerful “Willow Weep For Me” holds a haunting arrangement featuring Ganz’ fluid playing that gives Hennessey the space to really shine. Other highlights are the high-energy “Lover,” the lovely “A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square” and the jaw-dropping “A Quiet Thing” (Flora the Red Menace), where
her perfect tone is pure pleasure.”With A Song” is simply brilliant, with timeless singing from a
world-class vocalist, and Maddy Ruff’s mom.
David Malachowski is a guitarist, producer and freelance
Broadway veteran actress and singer, Nina Hennessey has taken another giant step and recorded her debut album. With A Song is the title of this long awaited dream that has come to fruition. An impeccable vocal collection of some outstanding classics, it leaves no question as to why With A Song is a BroadwayWorld.com Award Winner. It is wonderful! Nina Hennessey’s vocals are warm and inviting. She has a signature style that can easily sing any melody, range and tempo effortlessly – something that too many vocalists struggle with. On With A Song, there are 15 compositions that run the gamut (i.e. ballads, a cappella, samba). Likewise, on each one of these, Hennessey never ceases to impress the audience with a dazzling, show-stopping performance.
Hennessey opens with “Sometime I’m Happy” which is a great upbeat classic that begins with just her vocals and transcends with full band backing. “New Valley” offers the refreshing versatility that Hennessey possesses as it presents her simply singing a range of notes accompanied by a swinging jazz tune. ”It’s a Good Day” and “Mornin” are literally energetic and filled with emotions that can be heard in every note. Hennessey takes on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (Porgy and Bess) and it is just as the entire CD –Fantastic!
Nina Hennessey is best known for her roles and appearances in the world-renowned Broadway productions (Bye Bye Birdie, Cats, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables), television’s appearances (All My Children, Law and Order) and her concert work with the late Marvin Hamlisch. Nina Hennessey has recorded a stunning debut – it has the Wow factor.
Track Personnel; Nina Hennessey (vocals), Don Rebic (keyboards), Jeff Ganz (bass), Sean Harkness (guitar), Ray Marchica (percussion)
Track listings; Sometimes I’m Happy, Girl Talk, It Ain’t Necessarily So, Tre Giorni Son Che Nina, Willow Weep For Me, Falling In Love With Love, Lover, New Valley, A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square, A Quiet Thing, Temporary, It’s a Good Day, Mornin, Theme From Ice Castles, Without A Song.
Other mentions of Nina and members of her family in the press: