Rome Neal presents a night of Banana Puddin’ Jazz, vocalists, dance, open mic and poetry on Avenue C at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. “I’m the guy who made the puddin’!” Neal said as he dished out a generous serving of complimentary banana pudding to each guest upon entry.
“The mood was yellow and the night was young,” Neal sang from the top of his lungs, accompanied by the “Dynamic Ladies Quartet.” Kyoko Oyobe tickled the ivory, Adi Myerson skillfully played bass, Taylor Moore passionately rocked the drums and Gabrielle Garo hypnotized the audience with the flute and saxophone.
The quartet played off of each other’s strengths to make a vibrant sound as a whole, while also tactically maneuvering into solo pieces, allowing their talents and individualism to shine through their instruments. They quietly signaled to each other throughout each number, showing strong synergy as a band.
Neal swept the audience into the world of jazz with his show- manship and Sinatra-rustic vocals. A CD is rumored to drop during the upcoming year that will include the numbers he sang at Banana Puddin’ Jazz.
Halfway through the set, special guest, eight-year-old Jolie Emi Neal sang Louis Arm-strong’s legendary hit, “What a Wonderful World.” This was followed by various dance genres, ranging from ballet to the moonwalk, executed to Michael Jackson’s forever classic “Thriller.” An energetic tap routine was featured at the end of the night, quickly becoming an audience favorite.
During Open Mic, NYU Atlantic Studio drama alumnus, Paris Storey sang, “I Got a Feeling I’m Falling,” from the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin.” COR.ECE also wowed the audience with his impressive vocal range that hinted of Daniel Caesar.
Poetry brought the night to a heartwarming close. During the show, each member of the audience wrote a poem down based on his impressions and feelings brought on by the night of jazz and pudding. At the end of all the acts, the poems were read aloud to the room, presenting strong audience involvement and showmanship once again.
Although this year’s summer Banana Puddin’ Jazz has come to an end, more productions are still to come. Rome Neal has been playing the lead, solo role in MONK, written by Laurence Holder, for 17 years around the country and in Senegal, West Africa. A centennial celebration performance will run Oct. 5-7 at 7p.m. at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 5 print edition. Email Khrysgiana Pineda at [email protected]