The Upshot: The crooner creates his own sardonic cabaret on his tenth album.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Rock & roll is king, but there’s always room in the corner of the bar for the cynical, saloon-bred piano tickler. Drawing equally from Tom Waits, Noel Coward and Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, New York crooner Paul Mark creates his own sardonic cabaret on Stowaways, his tenth album.
With the Van Dorens apparently the name he gives his fingers and limbs (or maybe the string players that pop up on several tracks), Mark puts the emphasis on his jazz noir keyboard work and barfly philosopher’s voice. With a Cole Porteresque mix of jaunty melody and sharp satire, Mark essays sleazy character portraits (“Reputation Tango,” “Interesting Times”), undercuts overt romanticism (“Once Upon a Weekend,” with guest singer Tess Primack, “Stow Away”) and indulges in sneering social commentary (“How Do the Blind Become So Famous?”). He also pays tribute to a key influence by covering Brecht/Weill’s “The Ballad of Mack the Knife,” putting enough of a distinctive spin on this well-worn standard to distinguish it from the other five million covers littering the musical landscape.
If you have a fantasy of walking into a bar with a piano player in the corner, ignoring him at first until his songs start creeping into your consciousness and you find yourself paying more attention to him than drinks and conversation, Mark is that fantasy come to life.
DOWNLOAD: “How Do the Blind Become So Famous?,” “Stow Away,” “Reputation Tango”