Saturday, July 3, 2010

Evan's June NYC Concert Reviews



There are very few performers who can seamlessly blend R&B, jazz, show tunes, and toss in a tinge of gospel to boot.

Jennifer Holliday is one of them.

Had there been a roof at the beautiful, packed outdoor Brooklyn park, she surely would have blown it off. Backed by a great ensemble and the ultra tight Uptown Horns, this was one for the ages.

Holliday, minus 200 pounds, was looking better at 49 then she did as a 20 year Broadway star in Dreamgirls. And vocally she’s lost nothing. Speaking of two broken marriages, there was certainly pain behind many of her songs. But she held that audience in the palm of her hand and kept us right there throughout the remarkable hour forty set.

Joking that she “only has one hit,” Holliday courageously took on untouchable classics like Billie Holliday’s God Bless the Child and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Lesser artists would have paled in comparison, but she made them her own. And her impeccable taste in material made for a flawless show without a single clinker.

Her finale, I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” was thrilling. In fact, it may have been as great as anything I’ve ever heard live, including an in his prime Al Green doing Love and Happiness and Luther singing A House is Not a Home. It led to a spontaneous standing ovation and fans swarming the stage to touch the dynamic diva.

It’s not every day you get a chance to sit at the foot of greatness, and the fact that it was free on a gorgeous day made it that much more memorable.


Evan Ginzburg



Brian Eno once described legendary Afro-Beat pioneer and Fela collaborator Tony Allen as “perhaps the greatest drummer to have ever lived.”

Now having seen Max Roach and Andrew Cyrille perform solo drum shows, and Art Blakey make folks dance in the aisles, I don’t know if I’d go that far. I’ve also been privileged to see greats like Philly Joe Jones, Rashied Ali, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Ed Blackwell and so many others live and up close. So that “best” label always makes me a wee bit nervous.
But great he most certainly is and incredibly influential without question.

Allen isn’t a showy drummer with extended solos ala the often overrated rock Gods. Instead, he hits you with so many unique beats that it truly does sound like several people playing the kit simultaneously. And he moves seamlessly from jazzy sounds to funkier rhythms.

Quiet and humble on stage, Allen doesn’t have the charisma or showmanship of a Fela Kuti who I saw live twice in the 80s. Yet the audience at this joyful free outdoor gig was with him every step of the way during the hour forty set. The 70 year old giant had everyone from little kiddies to their parents dancing and ultimately giving him a deserved rousing ovation.

This 9 piece unit isn’t just world music, they’re world class. Let’s hope this tireless ambassador who did three shows in two days in The Big Apple keeps spreading the gospel of Afro-Beat.

-Evan Ginzburg


At the beginning of Gil Scott Heron’s free outdoor concert, he spoke of his recent world tour behind his new CD.

He noted that he found some of the reviews “strange.”

Well, this review is from a fan of some 35 years who holds Gil in the highest regard as a legend and a genius.

Yet today’s concert was disappointing.

The fact that Gil’s voice is a bit ragged wasn’t the issue. It was more that it felt like he was a guest at his own show. His lead-in banter to each song went on way too long. For example, the history of the word “jazz” is interesting enough, but was probably better suited for a college seminar than a concert stage. He also gave his fine band simply too much time to stretch out, including a lengthy number where he left the stage. Although it’s hard to fault such a generous leader, his presence at times was sorely missed. Throw in rapper Common doing two disappointingly uneven numbers, and the 90 minute show simply didn’t offer enough of its star’s incredible repertoire. Glaringly absent were many of his classics like Johannesburg and We Almost Lost Detroit.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a bad show, but badly paced it was. And that fault lay at the feet of its well-intended star.

Hope this doesn’t sound too “strange,” Gil. I still love you.

Opener Derrick Hodge led a jazz trio which exhibited great musicianship and virtually no showmanship for a set that evoked an appreciative reaction. Whether I’ll remember it ten years from now remains to be seen.

--Evan Ginzburg

No comments:

Post a Comment