Monday, May 27, 2013

"t'ain't your Momma's..." (Or your Daddy's for that matter Allen Kanovsky!)

Submitted by Al Kanovsky 5/27/13

Ms. Connie James steps out onto the stage of the Black Box Theater at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC). She is wearing a  midnight blue gown with a rhinestone collar. Mic in hand she introduces her program by announcing that they will be doing the Great American Songbook. She says "T'ain't gonna be your Momma's American songbook". Connie helps you understand that the "American Songbook" is not only the lilting melodies of years gone by, but instead encompasses all of music, new, foreign or domestic. As soon as she sings her first notes you become aware that you are in for a treat. Her voice is as soft as a sable collar, velvety smooth, silky, savory, sensuous, savory, scintillating----I am running out of "esses" and adjectives--suffice it to say, satisfying to your soul. Soft? Yes, but still dynamic. Her treatment of lyric and melody is pure JAZZ. Her repertoire went from Hammerstein to Joabim, Pat Metheny's "Alfie" to the Beatles "Blackbird Fly".

While watching and listening I realized how much hand motions, swaying hips and use of eyes meant to the enhancement of her performance. Her "patter" was interesting and informative. She spoke about the history of American music, growing up in a Jim Crow South Carolina and did a song "Ohio" about the killing of "four white boys" and what that meant to the Civil rights Movement. Ms. James makes wonderful use of her range especially in the upper register. There were moments during her performance where I was transported to a tropical isle, laid back and enjoying the breeze. She did "My Cherie Amour", Wonderful", "I Believe In Love", "Almost Like Being In Love" and closed with an encore of "Moon River" which started with an introductory harmonica solo by multi-talented Gary Schreiner.

Earlier in the program, Gary had done a particularly artful solo to which I and Dr. Jules responded with polite applause. Gary nodded his thanks and then looked into the lights and made some hand motions. The rest of the audience then applauded. Gary kind of laughed and again nodded thanks. He told me later that he was not "begging" applause but instead he was trying to get the attention of the sound tech, as there was a problem with his monitor. Let me acknowledge the rest of the band at piano was David Pearl. David is a masterful accompaniest and recently released a four-hand piano CD "Scythian Suite" which he recorded with his wife Rubi Miyachi. On bass was Brian Cassier. If you read his bio and musical background it will be a bibliography of famous stars, national symphonic orchestras and TV studios. Finally I get to drummer Frank Derrick. Mr. Derrick is currently assistant conductor and personnel manager of the "Palm Beach Pops". Additionally he is an adjunct professor at Palm Beach State College. If that ain't enough he wrote "Focus On The Technique For Drummers" and is the Drumset Editor for Percussive Notes.

He has a CD, "The Beat Goes ON" which is a chart-buster. And yes, he plays drums with Ms. Connie James. You have to be a master of restraint and touch to take on that task. Connie's style is soft and easy, ending on prolonged misty notes. Frank was able to mirror her moods.

Prior to the performance Dr. Jules and I had a talk with Eric Fliss who is the facilities manager at SMDCAC. We discussed upcoming programs, his need for expanding the audience demographic and possible solutions. Eric is open to suggestion and the good Doctor and I are never at a loss for words.

On the way home the subject of women did not come up. Instead we talked politics. Dr. Jules intoned the Democrat doctrine and I quoted Fox News. Although the discussion was lively it was not heated. Personally I'd rather talk about women.

 Still haven't decided on tonight!!!   
Al's Disclaimer:
A short note: The reason I write this is because I love music and words. I do not book acts. I do not promote acts. I do not accept invitations to review artists. I go to venues of my own choice. When and where is not influenced by anything other than who I would like to hear that night or day. If I don't like what I hear, I won't write about it. When I like it I let you all know. I never mention a name without asking permission. "Pardon me, Miss. Would you like to dance?"       

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