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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 love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.