Cool Music on a Hot Night at Indian Boundary Park
Against the background of a volleyball game on a muggy summer night outside the fieldhouse, Indian Boundary Park turned out to be the coolest place in the city Friday.
Howard Sandifer, a Chicago songwriter and cabaret pianist, wowed an audience of about 60 with a musical remembrance of a day with Sammy Cahn that occurred in Los Angeles in 1977. That’s when Sandifer, then a 25-year-old songwriter, was invited to the home of the great American songwriter, thanks to a serendipitous meeting between Cahn and Sandifer’s father.
Sandifer charmed the Indian Boundary audience with 13 songs over a 65-minute set while mixing in anecdotes from Cahn’s multi-award-winning career writing songs for movies and stage, and frequently dropping names the likes of which included Frank Sinatra, Jule Styne and Sammy Davis, Jr.
The vocals were handled by Deonte Baker, a charismatic and stylishly handsome singer backed by Sandifer on piano, Michael Ross on guitar and Mike Staron on base. Sandifer opened the set with a medley of Sinatra favorites including “The Second Time Around” and “High Hopes.”
Mixing his patter with music, the trio and Baker talked and sang their way through “Come Fly with Me,” “Love and Marriage,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” “Tender Trap,” “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “High Hopes,” “A Very Special One” (music and lyrics by Sandifer), and “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is).”
Appreciative applause kept the ensemble on stage for an ironic encore, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” a song that was written, according to Sandifer, by Cahn and Styne in July 1945 on one of the hottest days ever recorded in Hollywood.
“A Day of Words, a Night of Music” was presented by the Chicago West Community Music Center and the Chicago Park District as part of the district’s Arts Partners in Residence, which unites artists and communities in Chicago’s parks.