December 23, 2014

You there, with the shopping bags and the frantic look on your face. Longing to duck out of the holiday hordes, even just for a little bit? Consider taking refuge in the rich and gorgeous music of Cafe Society Swing. A buoyant revue wrapped around a bit of New York history, it boasts a tight eight-piece jazz band and the arresting talents of the French singer Cyrille Aimée, the standout among four fine vocalists. The enveloping atmosphere and the sheer beauty of the music make Cafe Society Swing a balm for the soul, though the story it tells is bittersweet. Set in the late 1940s, it traces the demise of the Greenwich Village jazz club Cafe Society, whose owner, Barney Josephson, once said he “wanted a club where blacks and whites worked together behind the footlights and sat together out front.” Written by Alex Webb and directed by Simon Green at 59E59 Theaters, the show gives us that flavor, at least onstage — and goes one better in a way that’s still remarkable today. “The drummer is a woman,” someone behind me murmured as Lucianna Padmore took the stage on Wednesday night. Ditto the bassist, Mimi Jones, and the tenor sax player, Camille Thurman.