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Lisa Sokolov at Enzo's Jazz Room

Budd Kopman By

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Lisa Sokolov
Enzo's Jazz
The Jolly Hotel Madison
New York, NY

April 18, 2007

Lisa Sokolov is one of those performers who must be experienced. Yes, her 2004 CD Presence won Best CD of 2004 from Downbeat Magazine, but I had not heard it. Enzo Capua told me she was something special, and he was not kidding.

The most important thing was that Sokolov gave a total, one hundred percent, no-holding-back performance in front of no more than fifteen people. Sokolov is a force of nature and literally took over the room for the hour.

It was easy to sit there and list the stylistic influences: Bette Midler in energy and pure camp, Janis Joplin in the sometimes scratchy voice, Leon Russel for the preaching, Laura Nyro during "God Bless The Child" and maybe Nina Simone somehow.

However, the single most important influence must be Betty Carter. No, Sokolov does not sound at all like Carter. Carter was called "avant-garde" because of the way she deconstructed a song, sometimes turning it inside out, to get at its center. No one sang "If I Could Write A Book" like Carter and no one sings "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" like Sokolov.

Rather than search for influences and comparisons, the only thing to do during this amazing set was to sit back and let the shaman named Lisa Sokolov cure you—avant-garde, indeed! Supporting this whirlwind were bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Gerry Hemingway, both of whom appeared on the record. Thus, the trio was a well-oiled machine and the act ran smooth as silk.

Not that Cameron and Hemingway merely played their parts. Cameron had some notated music, but Hemingway did not, and both of them followed Sokolov's every twist and turn, even when it appeared she did not know exactly what was going to happen. Cameron showed he can turn on a dime (a necessary skill with Sokolov to be sure), while Hemingway produced more of a percussive backdrop than a beat as he constantly switched between brushes, mallets and his hands.

In sum, Sokolov should be considered more a jazz musician than a jazz vocalist, and with this set, she just blew me away.

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