Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Impromptu Love Show with Diva Kimberly C. Gaines

It just so happens that on this rather WARM day in May (understatement) the theme in the Parlor is Love. Spirit guided this playlist. Just in a loving mood I guess. So glad you can't see me bouncing in the studio chair to all the music that has been played on this show.

Special THANK YOU to Pam Parker for blessing the Parlor with her presence today. Be sure to check her out at the Strathmore Mansion' "Art After Hours" Series 10701 Rockville Pk., Bethesday, MD on Wednesday, June 1 at 7:30pm Also, check out her latest CD the Lemonade Project. We love Pam and think you should too!!

Here is the playlist! Support independent artists by buying their music and attending their shows. They are apart of the soundtrack of your life!

TimeArtistSong TitleAlbumLabel
1:07:45Carlitta DurandicarliNostalgic NightsIndie65
1:11:39Break ReformIt's LoveReformation64
1:22:11D'NellRioja1st Magic62
1:42:09Pam ParkerHome in BahiThe Lemonade Project59
1:46:37KINGThe StoryThe Story - Single58
1:50:38AnjulieLove SongsAnjulie60
1:53:57Ne'a Posey80 DaysAll TogetherSoulspazm60
2:00:34AyaLooking for the SunStrange Flower57
2:03:51Algebra BlessettAt This TimePurpose56
2:08:56Beth GibbonsRomanceGilles Peterson presents The BBC Sessions, Vol159
2:13:58Break RefornThey Are HisReformation56
2:19:43Dezaray DawnChameleonChameleon EP58
2:23:49TweekAre you ListeningLike This59
2:31:16Sara DevineSpecial (Louie Vega Remix)Vega AllStar Remixers54
2:38:48RYATPlace My In HeartTaylor McFerrin's Early Riser55
2:48:30Lady Alma Silhouette BrownHear Them Often SayTwo59
2:53:27AnaneMove, Bounce, Shake (Roots Mix)Timeless Vol. 164
2:56:41Imani UzuriLove StoryHer Holy Water: A Black Girl's Rock Opera61

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Final Night of 2011 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

Last night I (Helen) was joined by Diva Lakeisha at the show. We were both so happy to be at a performance where women and jazz were emphasized!

Our first performer was Corky Hale with a trio of valiant musicians. Corky is like your favorite great-aunt who tells too many stories and then sits down at the piano to belt out a few songs, only she also played harp! Looking at her website, I see that her stock-in-trade is "An Evening with Corky Hale;" it seems like we saw a greatly abbreviated version of that last night. Tell a few stories, play a little, tell some more stories, play some more.

Here's a video of Corky playing the harp with Tony Bennett on the Tonight Show.

The next performers were pianist Peggy Stern and "Sweet" Sue Terry on the clarinet and sax. Both performers are virtuosos and it was a very pleasant performance! Sue Terry admitted that performing as the duo was both very exposed (that you are hearing only them - missteps would be more obvious, I guess) and very liberating, because they could experiment and have more opportunities to go a different way, because there is only one other person who could adjust. I appreciated it!

The final performance was Five Play, a quartet made up of members of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, who we heard at last year's Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. Led by Sherrie Maricle, one of the top women drummers of all time, they played a few numbers, and then were joined by Marlena Shaw. Marlena immediately took over the stage, actually telling Sherrie after the first number that there could only be one leader, and so they better pay attention to her! Wow. I love anything that Sherrie Maricle does, so I was a little sad for her!

I have to say looking back at the entire three night experience that the favorite night was definitely Friday. It made me wonder how performers for this festival are selected. Is there a committee? Do they have nominations? What is the over-arching goal, besides presenting women in jazz?

Please, be on the lookout for the sale of next year's tickets! Again, I will be buying them as soon as they are available!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Night Two of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

Two Sophie's Divas, Andrea Thompson and Helen Viksnins, share their impressions from the second night of the 2011 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, a tribute to Abbey Lincoln, at the Kennedy Center.

Andrea: The Abbey Lincoln tribute can not truly be summed up in one word, one sentence, even one article, but I do know this, if you missed this, you MISSED IT!!!!

Helen: And we know you missed it, because again we didn't see you there! (Warning: I have nothing but great things to say about last night's performance, so beware of gushings!)

Andrea: Jazz vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson teamed up for a trinity of talent that was only heightened by drumming sensation and Music Director Teri Lynn Carrington.

Helen: I'm in love with these women who are the ultimate in expressing their musical talent and creativity. I also need to acknowledge the performers who supported them. I don't know their names, but even though they are men (in a women's festival), I could sense their reverence for the music and for the beauties on the front of the stage.

Teri Lynn told a story as the evening began. That once Abbey had said to her that "Men play, women sing," and that as a woman drummer she didn't know how she felt about that. My answer to her is that her drums sing. Her heart sings through the drumbeats. Her heart sings through the backbone that she provides to the other artists on the stage.

Andrea: These four women were the four women that they needed to be, that Nina Simone spoke of, that grandma prayed for and that all of us tonight were anointed by. This evening was all a part of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival that is presented yearly by the Jazz Program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This year, due to her recent passing, Abbey Lincoln was the focus of the second night of festivities and although she was not there in body, she was definitely there in spirit. The renditions of songs that Abbey sang, wrote, and often composed brought to mind the following statement.

These conjure women conjured up magic in homage to the conjurer who once taught them. Ethereal, surreal, and elemental. Having only seen these women apart, their trio tripled the energy, raised the bar for the musicians and the audience, and in the end sent many of us out of our seats with a soul stirring version of "Freedom Now".

Abbey Lincoln was a women who moved herself, people, movements, and these women. And boy did they move. Always one to be open to new things, I am totally a FAN, collective energy brings out the best in us and thanks to these ladies many of us left that theater more moved, dusted with a bit of Abbey's magic, and inspired to honor women who matter to us.

Helen: I was properly introduced to Abbey during this concert, and it's going to be one of my greatest pleasures to continue to get to know her. Dianne Reeves commented that Abbey wrote songs in all emotions - lightest love to deepest despair. We heard that and more last night.

There were two songs (besides the encore) where all three singers shared the stage: The River, Caged Bird and Freedom Day. The River is a description of Los Angeles freeways, believe it or not, and concluded with all three talking/chanting rhythmically to paint a picture of masses of people passing by, conjuring the murmuring of a river. [Andrea:
Caged Bird is and was an amazing vocal exploration of sound, heart and harmonizing. These divas did Abbey’s tale of the courage and desires of those of “caged-in” with such justice it flowed over the microphones as if a luscious lullaby.] Freedom Day is the exuberance of the newly-freed slaves as they rush about to spread the news of emancipation, and is a part of Max Roach's Freedom Suite.

This was my first time hearing Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson live. I was mesmerized by both, but especially by Cassandra Wilson, whose face was so open and welcoming! When she moved, it was as if she were made of grace.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Night One of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

If you weren't at last night's Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival (Thursday, May 19), I'll let you know what you missed! Actually, I know you weren't there, because I didn't see you there.

The evening began with a moment of silence for the late Billy Taylor who was the founder of the festival in 1996. His big glasses and big grin were always such a beautiful thing to see each year. He was truly missed.

Overall, the evening went from cool to HOT! Mistress of ceremonies was Dee Dee Bridgewater. The evening was being taped for her Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater on NPR. Too bad it wasn't being taped for Sophie's Parlor! I noted to my friend Susan that I had personally interviewed six of last year's performers for my show. So far I haven't arranged anything, but it's on my personal to do list.

The first set was performed by the Jamie Baum Septet. Jamie is a New York City-based jazz flutist who had composed all of the numbers we heard. Besides the effervescent Linda Oh on bass and the composer/leader Jamie Baum, the other performers in the septet were men. I have this wish for more of the performers to be women at this festival, but that's just what I hope to see! The compositions were complex, I admire musicians who are able to perform at that level, especially when there are mis-steps during the performance. [This paragraph was edited, based on feedback from the artist.]

Then, we had the distinct pleasure to watch JaLaLa - a sparkly trio of singers: Janis Siegel and Laurel Masse (founding members of Manhattan Transfer), joined by Lauren Kinhan. Guess how their name was formed - LOL! We did enjoy this set, that was quite reminiscent of the past: Andrews Sisters'esque tight harmonies, Johnny Mercer songbook, Doris Day, and a killer rendition of Queen's Killer Queen. Everyone had a good time here: the performers and the audience!

The capstone of the evening was the HOT Tia Fuller. Dee Dee warned us before she came out that she would bedazzle us, and Boy, did she! She was poured into a golden one-strapped mini-dress and wearing a pair of the highest golden heels I've ever seen. Her saxes were as shiny as she was! Her group was composed of the husband and wife pair of Luis Perdomo on piano and Miriam Sullivan on bass, and her own brother-in-law Rudy Royston on drums. Her sister would have been on piano, but was unable to make it that night. She made a better effort of showcasing the women performers, by including Sheherezade Tennan (not sure of the name) at the drums and even more not sure of the name on the alto saxophone. This set made the joint jump with engaged musicians (only Luis used sheet music), who laughed and smiled and showed appreciation for each others' efforts. It was fast, it was slow, we laughed, we cried. A perfect ending of the evening, as I walked away with the saxophone melody in my mind.

Tomorrow evening is a tribute to Abbie Lincoln with some amazing women on stage. I can't wait!!!

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