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Singers & Swingers Of A Sort

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Some superb sultry, swinging, singing stars were filling Philadelphia skies with mostly great jazz and pop vocals this night. Unfortunately, not all were as good as they can be. Read on...

KIMMEL CENTER’s Mellon Jazz Fridays returned Nov. 14 with classic jazz-pop diva, Cassandra Wilson and the exciting young jazz pianist, Jason Moran, who had the audience enthralled in his last visit here. The N.Y. Times called her the most important singer to come along in the last 10 years. Time magazine said she was the most accomplished jazz vocalist of her generation. People magazine said she was “pure seduction.” She was backed at Kimmel by Brandon Ross, guitar; Gregoire Mare, harmonica; Jeffrey Haynes, percussion; Lonnie Plaxico, bass and Terri Lyne Carrington, drums. Their sound system was so amplified that it was like sitting inside a juke box. That’s for those who remember juke boxes. Mr. Moran opened the show with his just released “The Bandwagon” featuring Moran, piano; Taurus Mateen, bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Downbeat said they “could well be the best band in the land.” .Moran has been getting rave reviews from critics nationwide, but the performance on Nov. 14 was pretentious and poorly conceieved. Whoever gave him the idea of interjecting music selections with an audio background that blasted out like a hip-hop radio sitting next to you on a bus should find another line of work. The audio again was so loud the commentary (I guess that is what it was) that was used was distorted and those words that could be heard were inane. Not his finest hour!

ORTLIEB”S JAZZ HAUS Nov. 14 showcased, Stephanie Nakasian, a singer acclaimed by top jazz writers since she started back in the mid 80s with jazz icon Jon Hendricks. The New Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz said she is “one of the most important jazz singers in the world today.” She is one of the few singers evoking comparisons with such greats as Lee Wiley, Helen Ward, and Helen Humes. Her CD “Invitation to an Escapade” was described as having “almost seamless charm.” She was backed by top flight jazz pianist Hod O’ Brien who has worked with such stars as Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Oscar Pettiford. Together they provided a marvelous demonstration of how exciting good jazz vocals can be when done by a singer who cares enough about the lyrics to make them coherent. Ms Nakasian brings back the magic of the great jazz band vocalists of the 30s and 40s. Hod O'Brien gave her eloquent piano support helped along by owner Pete Souder's Trio. The band seemed to be having fun and I know the audience was. Ms Nakasian's CD tribute to June Christy—Lullaby in Rhythm, can give you some idea of what you may have missed.

THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART Nov. 14 gave museum goers a visual-listening treat with Stacey Kent, a London-based singer, returning home to the United States. She has six best selling albums and the 2001 British Jazz Award and 2002 BBC Best Jazz Vocalist Award. She reportedly went to europe as a student and ended up as one of its stars. He newest CD is “The Boy next Door” and Clint Eastwood and Oprah Winfrey are two fans. The N.Y. Times described her Algonquin Hotel Oak Room appearance as providing a steady current of joy...” The Wall Street Journal said she “has charm to burn.” She sounds as cute as she looks.

CHRIS’ JAZZ CAFE NEXT Friday and Saturday is featuring just great jazz: sax star, Eric Alexander; John Swana, trumpet; Craig Ebner, guitar; Lucas Brown, organ and Dan Monaghan, drums. on Friday with Sid Simmons, piano; Lee Smith bass and Dan Monaghan, drums on Saturday.


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