It was August 5, 2001 when the Houston Community Newspapers published my review of talented local cabaret singer/pianist, Daniel Blanchard. By all accounts it was a simpler time in America than the world we would know a month later following the horrific events of September 11th. But when we are very lucky, some of the good things in life just go on and on. So it is that now, several years later, Blanchard is still charming an ever-growing following of Montgomery County fans with his vast repertoire of the great popular American song standards. Farsighted Casey Kosh, owner of the elegant and popular, Amerigo’s Grille, deserves credit for augmenting his gourmet restaurant downstairs with the hip piano bar upstairs. It is there that Mr. Blanchard presides Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 8pm until closing. There are many of my acquaintance that think Blanchard is the equal of the fine dining when it comes to attracting the crowds to Amerigo’s. I couldn’t agree more. And if that is not enough weekend entertainment for you, why not wind down with the fashionable Sunday Brunch at the Glass Menagerie restaurant adjoining The Woodlands Country Club, and featuring Blanchard’s song stylings from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
The latest news on Mr. Blanchard is the release of his new C.D. titled “Secret Love.” It opens with a soft and breezy, “Summer Wind’ that brought back pleasant memories of my youth and a 1971 trip to Canada where I enjoyed the sweet film, “Summer of ‘42” in Windsor Ontario. Next, Blanchard reaches smoothly for the high notes of “Unchained Melody.” Then there are the seductive Latin rhythms of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Smiles, by the way, come quite naturally to the very personable Blanchard. One such boyish grin is nicely captured in the photo that decorates the back of his new album.
The title tune, “Secret Love,” is a good example of how Daniel combines crisp fingering on the keyboard with his very pleasant vocalizations. He is also not afraid to experiment with new material, and includes, “That Shows How Love Can Be,” an original song by Isaac Konigsberg, never before recorded. There is a romantic instrumental with the classic, “Besame Mucho,” and a nice rendition of the old Sinatra (Frank & Nancy) standard, “Somethin’ Stupid.” Speaking of Sinatra, how about a bouncing “Fly Me to the Moon,” with some very nice saxophone work from Karl Fullbright. There is danceable tenderness in “Till There Was You,” and “All the Way.” And for you dancers, Amerigo’s Lounge has a very popular dance floor when Daniel is at the keyboard.
Blanchard brings a kind of gentle spirit to tunes like, “My Way,” and seems to truly, do it his way. His relaxing interpretations of “Maria,” and “The Way We Were” are two fine instrumental efforts that close out the new album.
Those wishing to obtain the new C.D. may do so whenever Mr. Blanchard is performing. He likes to joke that anyone who gives him a twenty dollar tip gets a “free” C.D. Why not try it for cozy cocktails and dancing at home? Don’t forget to ask for his business card so you will be ready the next time you need the best entertainment for your private party. And as we reflect on Blanchard’s important place in keeping live performance of the great popular standards available to this community, perhaps we should cite another enjoyable cut on the new album:
Daniel, “It Had to Be You!”
Amerigo’s Grille is located at 25250 Grogans Park Drive in The Woodlands. For information call 281-362-0808. The Glass Menagerie is at 2301 North Millbend Drive and can be reached at 281-367-1100.
(The Courier 3.19.04)
(The Villager 3.25.04)