Apollo Club Harlem, 2/18/2013

19 Feb

12. DeeDeeBridgewater&CecileMcLorinSalvant

Tonight the Apollo Theater presented the premiere of its show the Apollo Club Harlem. The Apollo is one of the hot spots of Harlem and everybody dresses very well to attend shows there, but no wonder when it comes to seeing and hearing the likes of Maurice Himes, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards, The Manzari Brothers, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Storyboard P, as well as the Apollo Theater’s Gorgeous Hot Steppers, with Sharlane Conner, Sandra Passirani, Brittney Griffin, Alvon Reed, JoiLynn, Jaquez Andre Sims, Slim Mello or Jay Staten.

1. ACHOrchestra

Those dancers and singers were accompanied by the Apollo Club Harlem Orchestra, which featured Isaac Ben Ayala and Richard Wyands on piano; Tanya Darby, Brandon Lee, Bob Millikan, Michael Rodriguez on trumpets; Dan Block, Claire Daly, Craig Handy, Matt Hong and Erica Von Kleist on saxophones; Shannon Barnett, Wayne Goodman and Dion Tucker on trombones; Dezron Douglas on bass and Louis Bauzo and Dave Gibson on drums. The Orchestra was conducted by Daryl Waters.
7. SharlaneConner&SlimMello

I find it quite crucial that shows such as this one continue to be produced because they remind us about what jazz used to sound and look like in the 30s and 40s; they also help share the wonders of tap dancing, big bands and vocalists. The tunes the band performed tonight ranged from Duke Ellington’s “Crescendo in Blue” to Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow.” The band also played Bechet’s “Petite Fleur,” Count Basie’s “One O’clock Jump,” “Flying Home,” by Benny Goodman, Eddie DeLang, Lionel Hampton and Sid Robin, and Ella Fitzgerald’s “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which was sung by Dee Dee Bridgewater and Cecile McLorin Salvant.

Apollo Theater

Sometimes people complain about the fact that jazz is hard to understand. They say things like “It’s hard to know what they are doing exactly!”

Well, tonight, I saw gorgeous and astonishing dancers, who at times become actors too; I heard superb voices and outstanding soli, by Michael Rodriguez for instance, who played at this year’s Winter Jazz Festival with Otis Brown III. And I did not have a hard time ‘understanding’ what was going on: I was too busy enjoying.

And I was thinking that jazz still exists thanks to singers like Dee Dee Bridgewater – among others. Bridgewater, who was the first jazz singer I every saw perform, in my tiny little town Gueret, in the middle of France, has one of the most impressive voices and vocal instruments among all jazz musicians. By voice I mean style, and eloquence. And personality. It seems, too, that Bridgewater’s technique is at the utmost level. Cecile McLorin Salvant and she improvised together and meshed their lovely sounds. And being a singer is no small task: it requires a tremendous amount of work (cf http://voices.yahoo.com/the-care-maintenance-vocal-instrument-11310450.html).

All in all, shows like the Apollo Club Harlem remind us of the importance of the arts. The cast, tonight, were splending, and most entertaining. So jazz is not just ‘hard to fathom’!! It can be delightfully playful, and fun.

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