By Tammy Scileppi
They say age is a matter of mind. So, if you don’t mind it shouldn’t matter.
Marilyn Maye loves to party. The singer and Grammy-nominated recording artist has played hundreds of clubs and cabarets during her seven-decade-plus career and has been discovered more than once. The late Ella Fitzgerald praised Maye as being one of her absolute favorite singers. These days, she’s having the time of her life being in the spotlight again and making her well-deserved comeback.
Maye has been described as a dynamo, and at 90 years old, has reached her peak. She seems to have more energy than many folks half her age. The still-glamorous entertainer can put on the Ritz and belt a tune like nobody’s business.
If you ask her she’d probably tell you, “It’s a piece a cake.” After all, this performer’s entire life has been devoted to the art of song and performance, whether she’s crooned to nightclub audiences or captured the hearts of television audiences no less than 76 record-breaking times on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” or during a star-studded Jazz at Lincoln Center gala.
“This isn’t my hobby,” she said during a recent phone interview before leaving for an engagement — one of many in her busy schedule — at a Fight for Sight fund-raiser in Manhattan.
“Actually, I just flew in last night from Palm Springs. We had two sold out houses with a waiting list at the Purple Room,” Maye said.
Even after all these years, the songstress from Kansas has never lost her powerhouse delivery. Her fans will remember her warmth and style, and even her chatty rapport. Maye says it’s all about connecting with and singing to, not for, her audience.
Now, you can discover the artist and catch her upcoming gig at Queensborough Performing Arts Center — located at 222-05 56th Ave. in Bayside — Sunday, Oct. 14 at 3 p.m., when Maye welcomes Queens’ American Songbook fans to join her in celebrating her milestone birthday. Luckily, you can still get tickets for “Marilyn Maye: A Piece A Cake!” Opening the show is TV and screen actor/comedian Chris Monty.
Sunday’s concert will include an 18-piece band of the finest musicians in New York.
“They’re incredible… A fabulous arrangement! Lots of great music from my RCA recordings, my RCA albums (seven of them). The main thing is we seldom do this big band concert,” Maye noted.
“It’s a party. When you get there you’re gonna’ be happy. It’s a real upper. You will have the best time of your life for two hours. We join together and enjoy life and forget about things.”
The singer, who first earned her stripes during the golden age of show biz, is one of the remaining iconic performers of that glamorous era.
She said her big break happened in the 1960s in Kansas City, when she was discovered for the first time by talk show host Steve Allen.
“He loved me and found me then asked me to do his national television show,” Maye said. “We did it six times. And from there came RCA and from RCA came the Johnny Carson show,” Maye recalled.
A lot has happened since then. In her upcoming show, she will be doing the concert she and her band performed at the prestigious Appel Room last year at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
“And, we’ll be performing next month at Feinstein’s 54 Below, starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving and ending the Saturday after Thanksgiving,” Maye said. “We’re there twice a year. We just closed Birdland Theater in Manhattan [the oldest jazz club in New York]; we were there for two weeks.”
Last June, Maye appeared on the “Harry Connick Show” and back in January, she was featured on CBS News Sunday Morning with Mo Rocca, where she shared highlights from her career, along with some details about her personal life.
There was a bit of a lull in Maye’s career, but after a 2006 gig at New York’s Metropolitan Room, she was discovered all over again at age 78.
After one of her show-stopping appearances, Johnny Carson turned to his audience of millions, and said, “And that, young singers, is the way it’s done.”
But Rex Reed of the New York Observer said it best.
“Marilyn Maye has everything. She can belt, and she can sing ballads with the kind of warmth that makes your heart smile. She has a theatrical flair that captivates and enthralls, and jazz-spiced chops that can reach notes most singers a third her age can’t even hit in their dreams. She’s the real deal, the surviving artist of the American popular singer.”
Tickets for the show at QPAC range from $35 to $48. For more information, visit www.qcc.cuny.edu/QPAC/shows.html#maye.