April 24, 2009: Despite almost twenty albums to his name, and the huge popularity he enjoyed throughout the 70’s and 80’s, for some inexplicable reason I came late to the music of Michael Franks. It was not until 1993 and his superb CD ‘Dragonfly Summer’ that I latched on to his incredible talent but once the discovery was made I became entirely intoxicated. His unrivalled ability as a songwriter coupled with a unique vocal style has afforded him iconic status in the world of jazz and adult contemporary music so when this San Diego native made a welcome homecoming to play back to back dates at the excellent Anthology the anticipation was colossal. In fact this up market dinner and music venue which boasts big screen projection and superb acoustics proved to be the perfect setting for Franks who, truth to tell, delivered on every front imaginable.
In the familiar company of touring regulars Jay Anderson on upright bass, Willard Dyson on drums, Karel Ruzicki on sax and flute plus Musical Director and keyboard player Charles Blenzig he rolled back the years to generously traverse the width and breadth of his considerable discography and enthral those who gathered to see him. From as far back as his 1976 release ‘The Art Of Tea’ for the songs ‘Eggplant’ and ‘Popsicle Toes’ to as recently as 2006 and his ‘Rendezvous In Brazil’ (from which he plucked the quirky ‘Scatsville’) Franks demonstrated that the passing of time had done nothing to dim his star quality.
He promised from the outset that he would endeavour to cram in as many ‘fans favorites’ as possible and with ‘Sunday Morning Here With You’ and ‘Rainy Night In Tokyo’ from his 1983 ‘Passionfruit’ he proceeded to do just that. Revisiting the 1978 project ‘Burchfield Nines’ for ‘When The Cookie Jar Is Empty’ he moved on through the title track of ‘One Bad Habit’ before stopping off at the 1977 ‘Sleeping Gypsy’ where he shared the samba infused ‘Down In Brazil’ and the magical ‘The Lady Wants To Know’ for which the contribution of Ruzicki on sax was magnificent.
Which brings us to where I came in, in other words, ‘Dragonfly Summer’: He articulated the languidly jazzy ‘Monks New Tune’ in fine style but the real showstopper, which reduced the normally vocal crowd to a state of hushed reverence, was the spellbinding ‘How I Remember You’. Played as one of his two encore numbers this tenderly evocative tune was embellished by wonderful keyboards from Charles Blenzig and proved to be a sensational finale to what in every respect was a memorable performance.