Jessel’s debut CD of his songs from the ridiculous to the romantic. Includes “I’m A Genius” and “Life Sucks And Then You Die”, the songs that “brought down the house” at the 2003 Cabaret Convention, plus “soaring love ballads” like “Moonlight”.
— Adam Feldman – April 1-8, 2004 TIME OUT New York
“In the royal court of cabaret-with its few kings, multiple queens and legions of ladies-in-waiting-Ray Jessel is the jester. The veteran songwriter kicks off his return engagement at Don’t Tell Mama, and what better way to celebrate April Fool’s Day than in the company of this clever, huggable charmer? Now a springy septuagenarian, Jessel has worked as a Broadway composer (Baker Street) and Hollywood writer (The Dean Martin Show); his songs have been recorded by such artists as Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee and Michael Feinstein. But during this run (as on his debut CD, The First Seventy Years, on LML Music), Jessel will be singing his own prankishly literate ditties, which recall the smart novelty songs of Tom Lehrer, Allan Sherman and other masters of high silliness.
Jessel plays piano and talk-sings through his tunes like a Catskills Rex Harrison, but what he lacks in vocal beauty he makes up in genial wit. Highlights of the set include “That Old Kurt Weill Song,” a wicked parody of German cabaret, and the hilarious sing-along “Life Sucks and Then You Die,” which matches cheery Shirley Temple-style music with biting, proto-Avenue Q lyrics (“Women are bitches, men are pricks / Meanwhile that clock just tick tick ticks”). The ticking of the clock has done nothing to diminish Jessel’s zany-uncle appeal: This old joker is aces.”
Making his debut (at 72!) as a Cabaret performer at Hollywood's Gardenia room in April, 2002, RAY JESSEL has since played to a series of sell-out performances there, at LA's famed JAZZ BAKERY and Toronto's TOP O' THE SENATOR, in…