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Black History Month
Concert Review: NYC Nicole Henry Live @ Dizzy's Coca Cola
As you can see from the picture, I got to spend the evening with Nicole Henry :)
Her music is AWESOME, just go to her website and take a listen!
This was a night of nostalgia for me, but not quite the kind of nostalgia you might expect...
When I was a kid, circa late 60's/early 70's one of my favorite things to on a Friday night was to stay up late and watch the Tonight show. Of course the reason my mother would let me stay up late to watch it was because I had no school the next day. Anyhow.....the Tonight Show was a whole lot different back then than it is in 2013 or even than it was in the later years of Johnnie Carson hosting.
Back in the late 60's/early 70's the show was 90 minutes and it was broadcast live from NYC. And one of the things they used to have were a whole lot more live musical performances than they have today. One of the things that was a highlight for me of watching the Tonight Show back then were the appearances of any Black artists of any kind. And of course all of the major Black artists of a certain level were on. Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis Jr., Motown artists, Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, and more.
However there was this one other category of Black artists that would be on. A category that is not quite so obvious. And it is the artists of this category that watching Nicole Henry perform live brought to mind.
Who does she remind me of? Dianne Carroll, Barbara McNair, etc. 1960's
Back at that time there were a slew of gorgeous Black females who were primarily known for their acting, but they could also sing. These were women who spoke with perfect diction, the diction of an English teacher. But most importantly they were capable of taking any material whatsoever, from any musical genre, from rock n' roll to Broadway show and convert that tune into the kind of white hot jazz/pop performance that can simply be described as out of this world.
Sitting at the bar of Dizzy's Jazz Coca Cola last night, watching the beautiful NYC skyline out of one eye and watching the gorgeous Ms. Nicole Henry (check that picture of her & I) do her thing was to me like watching an uninterrupted stream of those kind of late 60's/early 70's Tonight Show performances.
The other thing I thought about as I watched Nichole Henry was the following quote I remembered from Jessie Jackson's 1984 Presidential Campaign; "We are Going From the outhouse to the White House..."
My thought was, '"we are now at the white house, so what's next?"
Well honestly, from a musical perspective that question can and no doubt will be answered in many ways. However I think that we would be doing ourselves a serious injustice, if Nichole Henry's way, wasn't one of those ways.
All of the songs could have been taken from the playlist of WABC - 770 AM circa mid 1970's.
Nostalgic show, but not one based on an oldies radio or soundtrack of your life formula. If there is a "formula" at all at work here, it is the classic formula of the smoky jazz club with a beautiful singer, in magnificent voice, back by some crack jazz musicians.
Here was the set list. But the set list and the performance are like night and day.
-Stuck in the Middle With You
-So Good, So Right
-Neither One Of Us
-Big Yellow Taxi
-Waiting in Vain
-Fire and Rain
-Spirit in the Dark
- (encore) Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide
Kevin Hays- piano, Rob Jost- bass, Dave Chiverton - drums, Dave Stryker- guitar
So what's the big surprise?
In an era where we have people called "great singers" (who actually can't sing), we have "superstars' who lyp synch at Super Bowls & Inaugurations. We have artists who sell millions of recordings, who are unable to put together two coherent words of thanks to their audiences; we are actually quite blessed to have an artist like Nicole Henry.
What I witnessed that night at Dizzy's was nothing short of pure Americana. Sure the songs were "old." But she made them sound fresh and incredibly she made them sound "fresh," by making them sound 10 years older than they were. And as a result she added an additional layer of class to those songs. They were all done in a timeless fashion. On top of that she actually talks to the audience between songs, just like they are human beings (with perfect diction of course.) Very classy and very elegant.
So that's the big surprise. The surprise is that we are blessed to have such an artist with us here in 2013, who can take us "back to the future in such a magnificent fashion.
And I quite pleased to have experienced her artistry and I am even happier to be able to write about her impact on me, during Black History Month/2013.
Album Review: Nicole Henry - So Good, So Right Live
Let me start with a disclaimer. In as much as this is what I have been doing for the last 20+ years, I have a particular bias aligned with those that perform in this type of venue and this style. The intimacy and simplicity is in and of itself calls for a particular talent and ability that I believe tests the metal of the performer honestly. You either entertaining or not. You are captivating or not. You are the center of attention rightfully or not.
With that in mind, my first listen to "So Good So Right by Nicole Henry", as I tend to do, was 'background' of a sort as I 'multitasked'.
Stuck In the Middle With You
So Good So Right
Neither One of Us
Big Yellow Taxi
Waiting In Vain
Fire and Rain
Love Don't Live Here Anymore
Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word
Right from the beginning with, 'Stuck In the Middle With You', she distracted me from the 'tasks' I intended to do as I listened to this project. She stated that this was going to be a 'revisit' of some music from the ' 70's and them proceeded to perform some fresh approaches to some of the classics of that period.
No 'bells or whistles'. Just the purity of the selections. Her voice and interpretations to classic 'stories' with a solid and sound musical foundation. In spite of the 'familiarity' of these selections, she made them 'hers', a tribute in and of itself to her talent. Songs like 'Neither One of Us' or 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' are difficult to extrapolate from the original artists and arrangements, but she managed for 'me' and all in all I ended up listening to 'her' telling these stories.
I keep referencing this collection as 'stories'. They are, and what Nicole Henry has done goes two fold. First off, as a 'Live Recording Project' it was clean and evenly spread. So easy on the ears as her voice sits properly and comfortably on top of tight arrangements that also were nicely spread and balanced.
Secondly, for 'me', they were captivating. Each song isolated as entities onto themselves and she delivered them as such. And at the end of each, you waited with anticipation for the next one. This reminded me of the many live performances I used to see of Carmen McCrae, Sarah Vaughn, Barbara McNair and the like. 'Cocktail Cabaret' style. A presentation that doesn't get the type of attention as it did back in the day. Just sit and listen to a 'stylist'.
Because of where I live and where she does most of her performances, I probably will never 'see' her show, but if this album is any indication of what she does, I truly believe I will have missed something.
But I 'do' have this excellent album, "So Good, So Right" by Nicole Henry and a bottle of Glenmorangie at the ready.
PRESS RELEASE: So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live
This new release is right on time for Black History Month. It is outstanding. In fact, it's...So Good, it's So Right :)
But this is an artist that I have seen perform live (last week in NYC) and I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that she would never have a need (or a BS excuse) for "fakin da funk" by using a RECORDED TRACK on National TV. (I'm NOT going to "call no names," but yall KNOW who I'm talking bout.....LOL)
Check out her website at the following link: http://bit.ly/VxVer5
We will have a whole lot more about her here on Soul-Patrol coming up, but I just wanted to send this out to "whet your whistle..."
Since her debut in 2004, Nicole Henry has captivated audiences while establishing herself as one of the jazz world's most acclaimed vocalists. Her expressive, soulful voice and uplifting energy has earned her three top 10 albums along with international accolades from Moscow to Madrid. Adding to her vocal talents, Nicole's beauty and on-stage rapport, combining confidence, sincerity and a touch of sass, have beguiled fans in over 15 countries. http://bit.ly/VxVer5
On her sixth album So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live, Henry demonstrates her gift for sublime interpretation as well as her love for the emotionally tinged soul, pop and rock songs that were staples of the 1970's. The 13-track live album, which was recorded at Henry's sold-out performances at Feinstein's in NYC in May 2012, showcases her soulful, inspired interpretations of some of her favorite classic hits of the decade from iconic artists including Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, The Commodores and Gladys Knight. http://bit.ly/VxVer5
"I really connected with the music of the 70's-all those incredible grooves and great lyrics that conveyed hope and love and being free," comments Henry. "Growing up I can remember my parents listening to lots of soul and pop music, and so many of those songs just gave me a great feeling of happiness. The artists of that time were true craftsmen and their music had such a broad sound, accessible by people of all races- that's the kind of music I loved-no definitions! I wanted to revisit that time and those emotions and share them with my fans." http://bit.ly/VxVer5
Featured tracks on the album include the title track, Brenda Russell's 'So Good, So Right,' which Henry loves for the "simplicity of the adjectives Good and Right and how, in this song, "SO" completely explains that feeling of inexplicable perfection of that moment. It just IS." Henry grew up on Aretha Franklin's music so when album producer Matt Pierson recommended to her the song 'Spirit in the Dark,' from Franklin's 1970 album, she knew she had to cover it. "I grew up listening to Aretha's 1972 live gospel album Amazing Grace- as far as I'm concerned, everything Aretha sings is gospel," says Henry. "This song reminds people to be free, look within themselves, and lose control when you need to - a revival of spirit." Other tracks include the great Bill Withers 1972 classic 'Use Me,' which Henry says "shows just how funky he was, and the lyrics show how direct his writing could be. The song's meaning is obvious. GOOD LOVING goes a long way!" http://bit.ly/VxVer5
Henry also shines on tracks such as Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi,' where, as Henry explains, "Joni Mitchell's whimsical melody, combined with her sad lyrics, always throws me for a curve on the last verse," and Stealers Wheel's raucous 'Stuck in the Middle,' where Henry showcases her signature attitude. So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live closes with Fleetwood Mac's iconic 'Landslide,' a beautiful song Henry interprets to be about "learning to love, growing up, accepting one's past sacrifices, and making decisions about where you're going." http://bit.ly/VxVer5
Growing up in a musical family in Bucks County, PA, Henry immersed herself in the arts early on, singing in school and churh, and studying cello and ballet. After graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in Communications and Theatre, Henry launched a successful acting career, appearing in commercial roles as well as a series of voiceover assignments. But she directed her strongest passion toward the development of her full-time singing career which was quickly rewarded in her present hometown, when the Miami New Times named Henry "Best Solo Musician 2002." http://bit.ly/VxVer5
Henry's 2004 debut CD release, The Nearness of You, won considerable attention from audiences and critics in the U.S. and in Japan, where they named Henry Best New Jazz Artist of 2004. The following year, Henry's Teach Me Tonight reached #1 in Japan and was named HMV Japan's Best Vocal Jazz Album of 2005. 2008's The Very Thought of You substantially expanded her American audience, reaching #7 on Billboard's jazz chart. 2011's Embraceable, a slight departure from her prior recording, reached the top 20 on jazz and smooth jazz radio charts and was a creative triumph for Henry, increasing her repertoire of originals, and further established her as a peerless interpreter of jazz, and pop standards, transcending genre boundaries. http://bit.ly/VxVer5
So Good, So Right
Recorded live at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York City in May 2012, Nicole Henry captures the musical essence of the 1970s in a stunning performance. This intimate journey through familiar and classic songs will surprise and delight listeners of all ages.
1. Stuck in the Middle With You
2. So Good, So Right
3. Neither One of Us
4. Big Yellow Taxi
5. Waiting in Vain
6. Use Me
7. Fire and Rain
8. Love Don't Live Here Anymore
9. Spirit in the Dark
10. Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
12. Sweet Love
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