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Douye: Live at LACMA

Jim Worsley By

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No doubt, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) wanted to finish their jazz music series with a flourish. Reaching out to the enchantingly superb jazz vocalist Douyé proved to be the right call. Jazz at LACMA is presented on Friday nights from April through November. In the past they have had performances from artists such as Wayne Shorter, Kenny Burrell, and Billy Childs.

On this Friday evening, November 22nd, 2019, a quintet featuring Douye, pianist Aaron Provisor (also the band director), bassist Geoff Rakness, guitarist Angelo Metz, and drummer Aaron Serfarty performed a choice set of standards for an appreciative audience. Thankfully the weather cooperated beautifully for this outdoor show at the museum's Smidt Welcome Plaza. The quintet weaved and improvised their way through the first set with no rehearsal. They instead opted for the spontaneity of a live performance. This boded well, as each song sounded fresh and anew.

Opening with the familiar and upbeat "Just in Time," Douye softly took control, as the band set the tone, and the bar, for the evening. A special moment soon followed. Douye had a very close relationship with her father and poured that into a poignant and heartfelt rendering of the Horace Silver classic "Song for my Father." After flowing into "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," Douye was buoyed by a guitar solo from Metz that was both well-placed and well-played, as she sprightly sang "What a Difference a Day Makes." Provisor and Rakness then added an improvisational richness to Douye's tender take on "September Rain."

Suddenly we took a turn on a spicy road with a bossa nova number. Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Aqua De Beber" fit Douye's stylish grace like a glove. This should come as no surprise as her most recent record, Quatro(Bossa Nova Deluxe) (Rhombus Records. 2019), is an all bossa nova showcase that features, among others, several more of Jobim's compositions. Quatro(Bossa Nova Deluxe) pays homage to the greats of bossa nova past while also bringing it into the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, back at the concert, "Watch What Happens" is given a bossa nova makeover as well. A set that opened with a breezy tempo concluded with one as well. A joyous full circle finished with a high spirited Douye bouncing through "Almost Like Being in Love."

Twenty minutes and many musicians later, the stage now had a whole new look. A pleasingly surprised audience could see that a big band had taken the stage. The quartet from the first set (the quintet minus Douye) now became the rhythm section for the big band. Douye wanted to do something special for LACMA's season finale. She surely succeeded in droves. Five saxophonists, four trombonists, and four trumpeters comprised the big band. They were all college student musicians, mostly from UCLA. They also were very tight and did some serious blowin.' UCLA college student and trombonist Brendan Kersey-Wilson was the band director. Phil Small served as the musical conductor.

The second set took flight with "Lover Man," before Douye wistfully winded her way through the classics "Autumn Leaves" and "At Last." The latter garnered nearly delirious responses of appreciation from the capacity crowd. It was time to kick things up a notch, so "It Don't Mean a Thing" (If it Ain't Got that Swing) got the crowd abuzz as they embraced the full power of big band swing. A moving sojourn encapsulated within "God Bless the Child" was then presented before going into the toe tapping and show stopping beat of "Alright, Okay, You Win." Douye was now really jiving and getting down with what appeared to be the final song of the set and show. However, Douye and Provisor decided to leave us with the holiday spirit and warmly say goodnight with the quintet, sans the big band, gifting us with Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).

Another chapter in Douye's well-crafted musical odyssey was written in this night. Equally at home with a small ensemble, a big band, or anything in between, Douye is a throwback to the glorious memories of jazz past. She is also a modern-day sensation and the jazz voice of tomorrow.
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