On Sunday night, Delicious and I went to the Kennedy Center to see Ella! with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Janis Siegal, and Al Jarreau, backed by the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band. Once we got through "Dear Ella", an insipid sung word sort of soppy tribute to the Lady that just makes me want to puke -- coupled with the very Saturday Night Live deja vu of Siegal and Bridgewater trading off verses and scripted repartee -- the evening picked up. I found Siegal's solo vocal style to be more on the straight show tunes side, only dipping into a gut-felt jazz tonality towards the second half of the show. Bridgewater was engaging and her voice really kicked it around the block. Best of the night was Al Jarreau, with his kooky, quirky, and obviously delighted personality shining through even when he was just standing, reacting to the orchestra. He did a burning rendition of "Midnight Sun" that had the audience holding its breath, wondering where the next note would come from.
The three vocalists took some old standards and did them justice, most notably Bridgewater's fresh and appealing version of "Mack the Knife" -- a tune that Ella branded into our collective memory with her improv over forgotten words and the slow vamp she built to a crescendo.
The band? Oh yeah. How can you go wrong with horns? Jarreau looked at the slide trombonist, and smiled wide. "I see we have women in key places, nowadays" and you could see her blush from the second balcony. Unfortunately, the tech crew at the Concert Hall had no idea how to mike jazz, with the fretless bass turned up so as to overpower both singers and orchestra, the soloists who simply stood up to throw down their chops, rather than walk to the special mikes, were inaudible, and no one in that house knew how to mike a jazz singer, most especially Jarreau, who uses the mike as an extension of his own vocal instrument, bringing it closer or moving it away as his own dynamics demand.
The show was recorded for Dee Dee Bridgewater's show on NPR, "JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater" and should air sooner rather than later. I'm looking forward to hearing the show as it was recorded straight from the sound board.