The grooving, much faster than usual version of “My Funny Valentine” very well describes singer Chris Bennett‘s artistry: she is not settling for the tried and tested American Songbook and change, like she said, is the only constant in life. After a pretty quick, Las Vegas-style “All Of You” as the opener to her first set on Thursday at Berlin’s A-Trane, she opened up her vast repertoire which not only included the standards like “Makin’ Whoopee”, but also several of Cole Porter‘s songs with German lyrics, made popular over here by the legendary Hildegard Knef. And with a lot of grace and conviction, she took over command on Porter’s “Get Out Of Town” and “Let’s Do It” in German.
Ably assisted by pianist Christoph Adams (who accompanied her on a rousing “Desafinado”), bassist Lars Gühlcke, and drummer Ernst Bier, she also featured saxophonist Armando Castagnoli from Tahiti (who played sax with Leon Ware on his album “Taste The Love”), at times echoing Stan Getz with very subtle and nuanced notes, at other times wailing and screeching in the bluesier numbers. Chris did a couple of Bill Withers songs (“Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Use Me”) getting funky, but also the beautiful Luiz Bonfá composition “The Gentle Rain” with poignant allure.
Chris changed to the piano seat on several songs and told the story of “Hard Hearted Hannah” with the power of a woman who’s been there and done that. Her strong, clear and head-on voice with little sympathetic raspy twists is the perfect vehicle for the melancholy of “These Foolish Things”, which she dedicated to her longtime piano partner Eric Doney who passed away this April (“Oh, how the ghost of you clings, these foolish things remind me of you”).
The Palm Springs-based Chris has been visiting Berlin every summer since about 20 years now and has recorded two live albums at the A-Trane (1999 and 2003) and the fact that she has no difficulties speaking German has to do with her working with Giorgio Moroder in the 70s (singing backing vocals on most of his productions which were made in Munich – he now has a new album out as well). In 1978, they both worked on the soundtrack to the movie “Midnight Express” about an American student who is sent to a Turkish prison for trying to smuggle drugs out of the country. The score won the Academy Award a year later. Chris wrote the theme song from the score and sang it last night. Showing us that she really is the consummate artist with multifaceted traits.