I don’t know if it’s possible to really explain Marty and Elayne. At least, I don’t think anyone could express exactly what it’s like to see them, to hear them.
Marty and Elayne are a husband-and-wife lounge act who perform nightly at
a Los Angeles restaurant/lounge called the Dresden. This place is
the toniest. It’s all brown velour walls and furniture and gold light fixtures.
Circular booths and small tables surround a baby grand piano ringed with
a counter and chairs.
Elayne sits at the piano with a pile of sheet music and a couple of extra
Casiotone keyboards. Next to her is Marty and his stand-up bass, with a
drum kit on the side just in case. Marty is the stone-faced protector of
Elayne, the ethereal artist who lives through the music she plays. It sweeps
her away, and Marty makes sure everyone respects that. Together, as they’ve
done for the last twenty years, they wail out popular favorites and old
standards. They don’t just perform simple smarmy covers, though. Every song
is transformed into something unique, something unbelievable, something
bordering on the incomprehensible.
Without fail, they start every song in a simple way, with either Marty singing
in his pitch-for-pitch Sinatra voice, or Elayne in her own jazzy, high-frequency
way. After a verse and a chorus, though, the fun begins. Elayne scats. She
scats like a cat in heat. She scats in song and plays improvised, otherwordly
riffs on the piano. Marty keeps the beat and keeps it strong, plucking or
pounding away a steady rhythm that moves Elayne along like a runaway roller
coaster. The overall effect seems pretty cheesy, but there’s something about
it — something way beyond the humor and the impossible.
You see, these guys have passion for what they’re doing. They’re serious
and it shows. If they were just going along in a happy state of shtick,
I don’t think it would work. It would be too over the top. This is the real
thing, and it makes all the difference. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
Of course, I saw people in the room who were watching them with a superior,
Lettermanesque shit-eating grin, but most everyone, the people who looked
like they kept coming back, was having fun: they all really appreciated
Marty and Elayne in a goofy way. Dresden is by no means a cheap gin joint.
There’s no cover, but people wouldn’t pay those drink prices if the show
wasn’t worth it.
Marty and Elayne perform a huge selection of tunes, mostly on request, like
"Girl from Ipanema," "Staying Alive," "Fever,"
"Mack the Knife," "Muskrat Love" and other crowd-pleasers.
The most amazing number I heard of them all, by far, was "Light My
Fire." This transcended mere performance. I think it transcended mere
music. With Elayne taking the vocal reins and the keyboards, and Marty on
the drums, these two wailed away in a frenzy I couldn’t have ever expected.
I haven’t seen musicians swept away like that in a looooong time. All hail
Marty and Elayne, keeping the sanctity of the lounge alive!