PIVOT: Vox Populi
Friday, January 25, 2019 | 7:30pm
Herbst TheatreVenue Information
Bob Dylan Songbook
PIVOT: New Adventures in Performing Arts is supported by The Wallace Foundation.
About This Performance
The adventurous San Francisco Performances’ PIVOT series has programmed an intensive four-day festival presenting artists and works with political observations and meanings. The festival’s second day presents the beloved Jazz singer Paula West singing a full program of Bob Dylan songs.
Paula West was raised in a Marine Corps family with three siblings. All of the children were taught to play musical instruments, hers being the clarinet. Mostly, the music she heard and played was classical but at college she was introduced to jazz. In particular, she listened to singers including Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Julie London, Maxine Sullivan, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, and she also listened to and was intrigued by the music of Duke Ellington. After graduation, in the early 90s, West moved to San Francisco and began taking singing lessons from Faith Winthrop and others. An early musical acquaintance was pianist Ken Muir who became her accompanist. With him and pianist Larry Luckovich she worked at the Terrace Restaurant at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. She also appeared in concert at the Maybeck Recital Hall. Although at first supporting herself by working as a waitress, West soon became a known and respected singer and began working in places such as the city’s prestigious Plush Room.
In the mid-90s, Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill introduced West to Donald Smith, founder of the Mabel Mercer Foundation. He heard her sing and invited her to appear at the Foundation’s 1995 Cabaret Convention, and thereafter an engagement at the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room. Other gigs followed and soon she was as well known on the east coast as she was on the west. In 1997 she won the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC) Award for Outstanding Female Vocalist Debut and the Backstage magazine’s Bistro Award for Outstanding Female Vocalist. West has also appeared in Europe, performing in Switzerland and Italy on a number of occasions, and in 1997 she had a very successful Paris debut at the Maison de la Musique. In the early 00s, she continued an active career, including a 2003 return to the Algonquin.
West’s repertoire is eclectic, including songs by Oscar Brown Jnr., Mary Lou Williams, Ellington, Charlie Chaplin, Meredith Willson, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter. An almost vibrato-less vocal sound and a warm affection for the repertoire she has acquired make West a distinctive singer.