The Concert That Made Me Want to Break the Rules (But I Didn’t)

Can you be intimidated and encouraged at the same time? For me, the answer is yes.

On April 23rd I saw Cassandra Wilson at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. The concert was a celebration of Billie Holliday’s 100th birthday. I’ve always loved Cassandra Wilson’s voice, but it was her song arrangements that absolutely blew me away. Her version of “All of Me” left me absolutely speechless. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to break the rules and record a performance more than I did that night.

The concert included a blend of blues, folk, rock, and jazz that was amazing. And I have to mention the horn ‘section,’ which consisted of only one guy (Robby Marshall). He played clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute – and a couple of those, he played at the same time. I may have even missed an instrument in that list. If it’s possible to be intimidated and encouraged all at the same time, this concert did it for me.

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Seeing Jazz in the Wild

I decided that this summer I’m going to take music seriously as a listener. If I know about a concert I can make it to, I’ll be there. And even though there are more events in Nashville than I can hope to get to, I’ve decided not to limit myself to my own city.

Kenya-StevieA couple of weeks ago, I went to the Stevie Wonder concert at Bridgestone. It was amazing. He played all night save for one 15-minute break. As much as I loved the music, it was great to see such a consummate performer. Even in a space that big, he made it feel personal. He told corny dad jokes and called his daughter to sing Happy Birthday to her (with the help of the audience).

Kenya-PrinceI followed that up with Prince in Detroit. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve loved Prince since I first heard his music. I have never been at any concert where I stayed on my feet the entire time and danced. I can’t even describe the energy in the Fox Theater that night. Even though I got drenched waiting in line to get into the venue and then waited another 40 minutes for a late start due to technical difficulties, it didn’t end up affecting my overall enjoyment. The show was high energy and engaging in a different way from the Stevie Wonder concert. Stevie was a soul-food Sunday dinner. Prince was the new trendy gastropub that makes food with chemicals you’re pretty sure must be illegal.

Kenya-DorianMy whirlwind music feast ended in NYC, where I saw Dorian Woodruff perform with Lori Mechem, and Roger Spencer. To keep with the food metaphor, Dorian was Sunday brunch, the perfect cap to the week.

It’s energizing to see musicians who you know just love what they do onstage; to stretch out because they are so confident and comfortable. I love jazz and have always listened to it, but I can’t deny the fact that at the Nashville Jazz Workshop, Lori Mechem has stretched my understanding of jazz, introducing me to it in a new way. It has taken me a while, but some of those lessons are starting to sink in. And seeing jazz in the wild, outside the incubator of the Jazz Workshop, has enlightened and encouraged me.

My Performance at The Cave Nashville, 2/8/15

Kenya-Cave-1I did my first showcase at the Cave Nashville last Sunday evening, 2/8/15. The Cave Nashville is a very different, very cool night spot. I also performed my first song in Spanish – “Bésame Mucho.” I contemplated using the English translation but the Spanish was so much more poignant to me; it really shows the longing of the singer. I hope that came across. The trick for me is to make sure I don’t get so lost in the lyric that I lose the words.  That’s been know to happen to me now and then. Accompanying me onstage was Ralph Henley on drums, Jerry Lackey on bass, and Ted Wilson on keyboard.