Juanita Rynum + Kiera 'Kiki' Sheard + The Clark Sisters Central Park Summerstage New York, NY August 7, 2010
Devotional music was the centerpiece for a warm afternoon in Central Park, and kicking off the ng the proceedings was singer/preacher Juanita Rynum, who came on with an acapella spiritual (she had no backing band), which led to a long sermon about how God has touched the lives of those near her. Rynum also mentioned that she considered herself a minister, not an entertainer, so her 30-minute set was more geared towards prayer than music. She followed that with a few more songs using a pre-recorded backing track, and continued to preach in between numbers.
Rynum has a powerful voice, and it was just too bad that she didn't have live musicians performing with herone could only wonder how the music could have developed had that been the case.
After Rynum's short set, Kiera 'Kiki' Sheard came on backed by a four piece band (drums, bass, electric guitar and keyboards). Her style is a blend of funk and soul with clear Gospel tendencies. The band was very solid, and one could notice how they played around some pre-recorded material that featured extra beats and harmony vocals, adding grooves and improvised riffs to the music. Sheard often addressed the audience, speaking as the band jammed behind her. The public responded by dancing along with the music while also falling into moments of deep religious praise.
After a long break, the Clark Sisters came on supported by the same band that played with Sheard, which was augmented by two keyboard players and two backing vocals (Sheard being one of them) During the opener, there was a problem with the microphones and some vocals could not be heard. The trio immediately stopped the music and did a quick soundcheck. Once the issues were solved, they went on with a Motown-like tune about finding happiness within a life with God. They followed that with a slower number, and then they started to interact with the crowd, who responded with applause and cheers.
The entire lineup was extremely moving. Each performer brought their individuality paired with their religious fervor, which together made for a highly enjoyable evening even for those to whom spirituality is not a priority. This has been an annual event at Summerstage in Central Park (one more evening was scheduled this year at a different venue), and this has definitely been one of the most memorable.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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