If you only know Jason Brock from his appearances on Simon Cowell’s X Factor televised singing contest and flashing light show, you only know part of Jason Brock. Sure, he’s a fabulous showman with a distinctive sense of style and a killer set of pipes. But he’s not all sequined flash and bravura attitude. He’s also a serious singer and a thoughtful performer who knows how to punctuate his performances with sparkle and sass to ensure that his delightful personality and penchant for improvisation come shining through.
Brock, who makes San Francisco his home, made it into the Top 12 during season two of The X Factor and is now making the cabaret rounds. This weekend he was at Society Cabaret in the Hotel Rex, the intimate cabaret room that feels like a cross between a piano bar, someone’s living room and a hip New York salon. In front of a packed crowd, Brock, with Dwight Okamura at the piano, spent nearly two hours putting his personal stamp on some standards and even made time for a special guest.
With songs like “Old Devil Moon” and “Misty” at the top of the set, it seemed Brock was paying special tribute to Diane Schuur, with similar vocal stylings (even a similar look), and it was nice when Brock, wearing a black suit and many layers of chains around his neck, acknowledged his love for the jazz singer. But then, with “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, Brock stepped into his own spotlight with a jazzy take on the show tune that Richard Rodgers (a stickler for remaining true to the original melody) would have disliked, but come on. We’ve heard this song a million times. Brock’s sly version even made the tune a little bit sexy (no easy feat).
Brock can belt like nobody’s business (“All That Jazz”), but he can also slip comfortably into a ballad as he did with “Bein’ Green” and “Lush Life.” He lost the emotional thread of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” part way through and never quite regained it, but that probably means there are better ballads for him than this one.
Slipping easily into R&B, pop, jazz and even gospel, Brock turned “Glory of Love” into a showstopper and proved he can really swing on “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Special guest Kim Nalley, playing with 21-year-old piano wunderkind Joe Warner, offered a stylish pair of tunes: “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and “I Got Rhythm” before Brock joined her for a stunning (and unrehearsed) duet on “Summertime.”
The main set came to an end with “Louisiana Sunday Afternoon” before Brock’s encores of “New York State of Mind” (the song that got him onto The X Factor) and a heartfelt “What a Wonderful World.” But Brock’s fans weren’t satisfied with just two encores. Even though he didn’t have anything prepared, Brock appeased the clamoring crowd with a totally improvised (and a cappella) medley of Whitney Houston hits including “How Will I Know,” ‘”One Moment in Time,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “The Greatest Love of All.” Nalley jumped back on stage to provide some back-up vocals, and it was like fireworks after a baseball game.
Brock will soon make his debut at New York’s 54 Below, but he promises to be back for an all ’80s show at Martuni’s.
If you’re new to the Jason Brock experience, these videos should help:
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Society Cabaret’s next show features Barry Lloyd but the Jan. 25 show is sold out. For a complete calendar (including a few “Showtune Sundays”!), visit www.societycabaret.com. For tickets call 415-857-1896.