Mary Wilson at The B.B. King Blues Club

Mary Wilson


B.B. King Blues Club, February 7, 2003:


       I take the train into Manhattan on a very snowy winter’s day. I had called first to make sure the show was not cancelled, and thankfully it was not. The New York City crowds were lessened as a result of the heavy snow on a Friday. I get to the club early and go downstairs to Lucille’s Grill to keep warm and have a coke.

       A line forms and the doors open at 6:00 P.M. I am on the guest list, again, thanks to Rena Siwek the new Public Relations Director here at The B.B. King Blues Club. Thank you Rena! I am led to a table right in front and center stage. YES! Shortly a very friendly, attractive, professional woman, Sandra Andrews, joins me at the table. We talk and share thoughts about our musical interests, careers, and the world. Sandra is an Interior Design Resource Librarian for both Croxton Collaborative Architects, P.C. and Resource Directors Association. Both Resource Directors Association and Croxton Collaborative Architects, P.C. plan architecture and interior design, focusing on the integration of the built and natural environment. Resource Directors Association represents both Pennsylvania and New York states. The food is excellent, as usual. Elliot, who takes care of us extremely well, serves us tonight. Soon Brandon, a writer for the Legislative Gazette in Albany, New York joins us. Brandon is here to review the show as well. The club slowly fills to capacity.

       At 7:55 P.M. the band takes the stage. They are a five-piece horn section, guitar, drums, bass and electric piano. The bandleader greets and hugs all the band members indicating their closeness and exuding a very good vibe personally, amongst the band members. At 8:00 P.M. the music starts. It is quiet and soothing and creates a unique anticipatory musical mood, introducing the arrival of Mary Wilson. The intro music is dreamy and ethereal with Korg synthesizer featured and cymbal rolls. Two gorgeous singers take the stage dressed to the 9’s. They are sophisticated, talented and toned.

       Mary Wilson takes the stage to a standing ovation from the now overflowing audience. The opening number is, “Coming Out Of The Dark.” The vocals are super strong with tremendous three part harmonies. Mary looks sensational!!


Mary Wilson


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Mary Wilson leads the entourage through a sequence of Supremes songs that knock us out. “Love Child” is amazing! “My World Is Empty Without You,” is a tremendously tight arrangement and the vocals are sharp and smoothly blended. On “Reflections,” the band chart is tight, the horns are sharp and the two backup singers are exquisite; what strong vocals and precise dance routines. YO! Supremely divine Mary Wilson introduces her talented backup singers as Karen Newman and Roberta Freeman.

       Her singers, Karen Newman and Roberta Freeman, are quite inspiring.


Roberta Freeman & Karen Newman


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song is, “You Can’t Hurry Love’ which is followed by, “Come See About Me.” The band is smokin’ and the horns are blaring! They do a medley into, “Back In My Arms Again.” Mary rules, Supreme...


Mary Wilson


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       There is a brief pause and mood change. Mary introduces the guitarist, Ray Bennell. Ray accompanies Mary on a tremendous rendition of the very special Sting composition, “Fields Of Gold.” They alternate lead vocals on the verses. This is a very soothing, sensuous and caressing version of this tune. The drummer, Don Davis, utilizes a reverse stick on the snare for succinct percussive clarity, which is extremely tight. Ray plays acoustic guitar taking a poignant solo, which is clear and dreamy. Mary introduces the next song for all you lovers, “You Are So Beautiful.” Amazing three part harmonies are performed. The band is fat on this chart. Ray Bennell plays another amazing guitar solo!


Ray Bennell


Photo/Animation: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Mary breaks into the tremendous Martha & The Vendallas tune, “Dancing In The Streets.” Roberta and Karen return to the stage in these attractive and revealing outfits!!! I mean really! I had been thinking of this song all day, and now here it is. On the next song, “Baby Love,” Mary encourages six audience members to join them on stage. “Stop In The Name Of Love” is next and the six female audience members continue to cavort on the stage. This creates an embracing mood of sharing and togetherness. “You Keep Me Hanging On” is next as the ladies continue to enjoy the stage; line dancing and singing. The band sizzles through all these songs. Mary continues to captivate and inspire!


Mary Wilson


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next number, “Walk The Line,” features the bassist, James Browning. The bassist is smokin’ as Roberta and Karen dance up a storm. What amazingly talented singers and dancers, and their outfits are incredible. The next song, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” is very emotional and inspiring. Mary Wilson continues to top herself again and again with her strong vocals, stage presence, and musical talent. Mary says goodbye and thank you to the audience and all her fans throughout all the years.

       The encore is pure delight. Mary leads the band and the girls through two Rolling Stones tunes: “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar.”  They are blowing us right out of here. Each member of the band gets a feature moment to show their virtuosity on their instruments. Don Davis on drums (behind a clear cage) is amazing. His drum solo is tremendous! The bass solo by James Browning is really hot! Thumb plucking, rhythmic slapping, and funky melodic note control prevails. A superior piano solo by a female pianist on a Korg synthesizer is featured next. Ray Bennell solos amazingly on his guitar. He is all over the Fender Stratocaster in every way. Besides incredible leads, he executes a complex and controlled scratch chord melody that is sensational. John Scarpula, bandleader, solos on his tenor sax. He’s blowing smoke out the tenor, a wailin’ sax. He directs The Cloud 9 horn section. They are tight together and superior musicians. They all return to “Brown Sugar” to cap the string of amazing musical solos.

       The band, lead by John Scarpula, was tight, talented and hot!!!!! 


John Scarpula


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Mary leads the group into, “Higher,” the Sly Stone dance tune. Everyone in the club is singing and dancing. I am freakin’ going wild!!!

       Karen & Roberta had a refreshing costume change about mid-show...Yeow!!


Karen Newman & Roberta Freeman


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Roberta solos on the intro to the Donna Summers tune, “Last Dance.” Mary then sings the verses and leads the group through, “Last Dance,” an incredible rendition. There is an amazing trumpet solo and John Scarpula leads this amazing band throughout the night on his tenor sax. The band is hot, hot, hot!!!

       Mary Wilson thanks the crowd and comes over to clasp both my hands as we share a very brief moment amongst all my yelling and screaming. She also greets Sandra and Brandon. We are all yelling, clapping and screaming in utter delight.

       I say thanks to Brandon and have a safe trip back to Albany. I hug Sandra and thank her as well, for sharing an amazing musical experience here at The B.B. King Blues Club. I again float out of here after another incredible show. Mary Wilson was STUPENDOUS here tonight. She has assembled a group of incredibly talented musicians to fully support her supreme performance!


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