In the Jazz Tradition: Nellie McKay
Nellie McKay arrived on the music scene like an exclamation mark. Get Away from Me - her astounding 2004 debut, believed to be the first double-disc introduction to any jazz singer - upended the norms of piano-backed jazz with tempestuous bits of reggae and rock, bursts of hip-hop and pop, and a seamless merger of musical erudition and thematic irreverence. It was, as The New York Times observed, "a tour de force from a sly, articulate musician." With a voice that can be boisterous and bold or soft and breathy, McKay harnesses the agility of a superstar athlete from the piano bench. She has maintained that adventurousness - starring on Broadway in The Threepenny Opera, recording a dazzling tribute to Doris Day, and producing a series of musical biographies of female iconoclasts. Her splendid 2018 album, Sister Orchid, turns standards into muted, moody late-night escapades: "Willow Weep for Me" becomes a boogie-woogie sprint, "The Nearness of You" a showcase for romantic melancholy. In two separately ticketed events (7 PM; 9 PM), McKay remains delightfully unpredictable.