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Rita Moreno and Her Trio in "Little Tributes" at Café Carlyle
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Rita Moreno and Her Trio in "Little Tributes" at Café Carlyle

- Jazz and Cabaret Corner

Rita Moreno in Little Tributes
(Rita Moreno Bio)
Russ Kassoff on Piano
(See a Review of Russ Kassoff’s CD)
John Burr on Bass
Ted Sommer on Drums
Café Carlyle
(Carlyle Website)
Madison Avenue at 76th Street
NY, NY 10021
Tony Skrelja, Manager

Press Representative: OPR/Origlio Public Relations/
Richard Hillman

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 27, 2007

My return to Café Carlyle, exactly, to the day, two years since I reviewed Ute Lemper in the same room, was equally as magical, as this lush setting is so fascinating on its own, even the hallways, the Bemelmans Bar next door (where I and my guest, Chicago critic, Susan Weinrebe, had just caught the Loston Harris Trio, while waiting for The Carlyle’s second set), and the fanciful Ludwig Bemelmans murals, floor to ceiling in both entertainment spaces).

My guest and I settled in at the Bar, with a straight-ahead view of the main room stage, and we were honored to chat with Dr. Leonard Gordon, Rita’s husband, Russ Kassoff, Rita’s pianist (whom I have known for some time in the New York music circles), and Tony Skrelja, the always warm Manager/Host of Café Carlyle. Rita opened this second set with Broadway, My Street, by Kander and Ebb, wearing a silky white suit, gold blouse, and shining blonde hair. This was definitely a new Rita Moreno, who was born in a small town, near the famous Puerto Rican rainforest. She grew up in New York and made her Broadway debut at age 13. She has starred in dozens of films, including The King and I, and was nominated for a Tony Award in The Ritz. In 2004, Ms. Moreno was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Breezin’ Along with the Breeze was next, with a hint of scat. Ms. Moreno spoke to her fans frequently, especially about her recent 75th birthday on December 11. Yet this septuagenarian was frisky, fashionable, and fun. My Ship, by Weill, with a little help from Ira Gershwin, from Kurt Weill’s stage musical, Lady in the Dark, was sung and danced, barefoot, with a cane, like an “old soft shoe”. At all times, Russ Kassoff played the Café’s Steinway enthusiastically, but never overwhelmingly, and this pianist, who had accompanied Sinatra, was right at home and in the mood. Ted Sommer, on drums, kept the rhythm shifting nicely, and he, too, fused his drums with this effervescent lady. John Burr, on bass, played with elegance and richness. In a tribute to Peggy Lee, Ms. Moreno turned vamp and belted out an impassioned rendition of Fever, a song which I keep hearing lately. For her finale, she sat right on the piano, radiant, as Russ Kassoff played on.

One of the funnier songs of the set was Class, another Kander and Ebb. Ms. Moreno pretended to be her friend, Antoinette, in a thick Queens accent, lamenting, “What ever happened to class?”. I Love a Piano, by Irving Berlin, showcased the talented Russ Kassoff, while I Never Has Seen Snow, from Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s House of Flowers, was soft and whispery, about first love. The anecdotes rolled on, with Ms. Moreno close to the end of a long night, and she reiterated her gratitude in being invited to perform in this renowned Café. She drew her fans in, many who seemed to have followed her career, and talked about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. New Ways to Dream/With One Look soon followed. Each musician had an extended solo, toward the end, and each was roundly received. My favorite number was Aguinaldo, in traditional Puerto Rican genre, with maracas and a shaker. This was the Rita Moreno that her fans remembered, and they were well rewarded, all evening long.

Ted Sommer, John Burr, Rita Moreno, Russ Kassoff
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Rita Moreno and Ted Sommer
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Rita Moreno and Russ Kassoff
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Dr. Leonard Gordon (Rita's Husband) and Tony Skrelja (Cafe Carlyle Manager)
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Susan Weinrebe (Chicago Critic) and Roberta, Both in Stunning Details Jewelry
Photo courtesy of Russ Kassoff

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at