February 24, 1992 12:00 PM

The Manhattan Rhythm Kings

Do the Manhattan Rhythm Kings have rhythm? Nope. They have rhythm and a half. The group’s third album, which includes an easy-to-agree-with endorsement from none other than the current King of Broadway, Tommy (The Will Rogers Follies) Tune, offers a winning blend of standards (“I Remember You”) and charming obscurities (“The Jitterbug”) and a mixture of styles from ’30s and ’40s crooning to doo-wop to country and western to rock and roll. The Kings are a singing, tap-dancing, instrumentally adroit trio who have just opened on Broadway in the new Gershwin musical comedy, Crazy for You. With Brian Nalepka on bass, Tripp Hanson on piano and Hal Shane on guitar, the Rhythm Kings exult in close, melting harmonies that are reminiscent of the Mills Brothers’. The trio bring a wonderful giddiness to the Boswell Sisters’ “Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia” (“When it comes to loving he’s a real professor/Yessir/Just a Mason-Dixon Valentine”) and to “The Heebie Jeebies,” another Boswell Sisters number. It’s tough not to grin straight through “Snug As a Bug in a Rug,” a treasure that the group unearthed from the 1939 movie The Gracie Allen Murder Case. It’s very tough not to tap your feet along with the winsome “I Feel like a Feather in the Breeze.” It’s absolutely impossible not to just give in to the moment and roll back the rug for “Fools Fall in Love.” One can only hope that the Rhythm Kings, who began as street musicians in 1980, can always count on a roof overhead when they perform. With them around, baby, it’s warm inside. (Cabaret)

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