Nancy Wilson's Swingin' 70th Birthday Party

Nancy Wilson & Her Trio

 

Carnegie Hall, June 29, 2007:

 

       Kathy and I travel to Carnegie Hall, for Nancy Wilson’s 70th Birthday Party at the JVC Jazz Festival 2007. We are so excited about tonight’s very special occasion. Carnegie Hall is sold out. We can’t help but notice that the majority of tonight’s patrons are very well dressed for this unique event. As 8:00 P.M. approaches, Carnegie Hall is filling up quickly. The crowd is very excited and animated. The hum if the crowd is infectious. At 8:00 P.M. exactly, the lights dim and blink to alert us that the show is about to begin.

       At 8:07 P.M., the Nancy Wilson Trio begins with a quiet and thoughtful swing. The bassist walks gently, as the drummer plays triplets on his cymbals. The piano develops the melody and then returns to the top. A bass feature is selective and tasteful. The standup bass executes nice hammering and choice open notes. The drummer has an excellent left hand and his hi-hat is so exacting.

       Nancy Wilson graces the Carnegie Hall stage at 8:15 P.M. She is dressed in a gorgeous yellow dress. The audience stands with admiration and respect. Nancy Wilson introduces her talented band: Rufus Reid on bass, Roy McCurdy on drums and Llew Matthews on piano and musical director.

    

Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Regina Carter is introduced first, by Nancy Wilson, on violin. She plays a Duke Ellington composition, “Imagine My Frustration.” Regina Carter performs a sassy, slow blues that loosens up the mood. She confidently demonstrates creative phrasing that is both emotional and delicious, featuring excellent dynamics. She executes a hushed and sensual tone, contrasted with well conceived crescendos for explosive dynamic contrast. Regina utilizes pizzicato for potent expressive effect, with colorful harmony note combinations for melodic emphasis. Regina displays very imaginative phrasing with a delicate touch and wonderful facial expressions. Regina’s solo is fascinating, building to a strong crescendo before the end.

    

Regina Carter

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Nnenna Freelon is introduced by Nancy Wilson. She begins with a slow and expressive style. The song she has chosen is, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” The arrangement is a leisurely, meaningful swing. Her captivating vocal is loose and interpretive. The piano solo cleverly embellishes the melody. Nnenna Freelon utilizes her creative vocal range from sweet and deep, to a powerful and gutsy growl.

    

Nnenna Freelon

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Nnenna Freelon sings, “If I Had You.” Her vocal delivery is tender and warm. She executes great use of rests. The drummer uses his brushes with great effect, as the pianist develops the melody. There is a dissonant minor key change along with a double time meter change. Nnenna is tasteful, confident and possesses superior vocal control and phrasing.

       Kurt Elling comes on next. He snaps his finger to synch the ¾ meter tempo. He sings a ‘skat’ vocal intro. This interesting and interpretive arrangement is, “Sunny.” With the drummer’s exacting brush work, Kurt Elling performs admirable vocal phrasing. He uses a cut time melodic feel against a double time brush attack. The creative piano solo embellishes the theme as a minor 2nd change is employed to enhance the emotional level. Kurt Elling executes great dynamic control on his vocal delivery. The drummer switches to sticks to magnify the dynamic effect. Kurt tells the captive audience that he is honored to be here tonight with Nancy Wilson, the “actress of song.”

    

Kurt Elling

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Kurt’s next song is, “Save Your Love For Me,” which he just learned. His vocal delivery is soothingly melodic, with a slight growl. His vocal is meaningful and emotional. The drummer plays a slow ride cymbal to ‘fatten’ the sound. Rufus Reid takes a tremendous bass solo. His playing demonstrates selective and thoughtful note preference. The piano and drums creatively complement the outstanding bass feature. Kurt Elling executes soulful and expressive vocals. His dynamic range extends from a low impassioned growl to strong sustained high notes.

       Herbie Hancock is introduced next. He tells the audience, he had no hesitation whatsoever to honor Miss Nancy Wilson. He further states that, “I love you because we all love Nancy Wilson.” Herbie Hancock plays Cole Porter’s composition, “I Love You,” a bright swing that is imaginative. The musical mood is slow and then quickens. This creative piano invention features melodic crescendos as he develops the melody. The trio is hot as it builds to a complex melodic expression and then continues driving without any hesitation. The band becomes dynamically quiet for a bass feature. Herbie and the bass player are trading 4’s in an answer/response musical form. The drummer displays confident control and seasoned chops. Herbie performs excellent melodic development with his trademark dissonant accents that work against the tempo.

       Herbie Hancock and Nancy Wilson perform together on a composition titled, “Old Folks,” from her 2006 album, Turn To Blue. The slow piano intro is expressive, animated and humorous. Nancy’s vocal phrasing emanates true emotion and showcases her excellent story telling. The arrangement is respectful and reflective, with a lofty sense of honor. Herbie’s piano solo contains creative and effective use of rests with dynamically contrasting flourishes.

       Nancy Wilson sings, “Moondance,” with her accompanist, arranger, producer and conductor. This arrangement is bright, playful and really swings. Nancy conveys a strong vocal delivery that is very expressive, with an emotional growl. What a superior interpretive and expressive vocal presentation. Rufus Reid’s bass solo is exemplary. This “Moondance” is rockin’ and very classy.

    

Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Nancy pays tribute to a very important person in the audience. She tells us, “He cared more about me than the business.” They have worked together since 1959. This person is her longtime manager, John Levy. Nancy exclaims: “I wish I met you when we were seventeen.” Nancy sings a very special song to John Levy. Her vocal delivery is slow and expressive, with excellent use of rests and very tender emphasis. The piano and drummer’s brushes warmly complement Nancy’s elegant story telling. The overwhelming emotion sends shivers through Nancy, as she is near tears. Nancy sings the lyrics, “I’m glad I never met you till today.” Her vocal delivery is measured, meaningful and melancholy. Nancy exclaims: “I love you with all my heart, Mr. Levy!”

    

Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Michael Wolf, Nancy’s former accompanist, joins her onstage. A slow bass intro leads into a soulful version of, “Teach Me Tonight.” The piano is delicate and fleeting. Nancy is wonderfully expressive, as she draws away from the mic while her vocal level rises to a growl. Michael Wolf’s piano solo creatively embellishes the melody. His playing builds to a crescendo, emphasizing drama and strength. Nancy demonstrates dramatic vocal control, with an extremely sexy and suggestive vocal delivery. She repeats the refrain, “teach me,” for a superior erotic effect. There is a scheduled intermission.


SECOND SET:

 

       The second half of the show begins with Ramsey Lewis. He performs John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” The sometimes dissonant musical mood is creatively provocative, with randomly fluttering, frenzied flourishes contrasted with quiet and ethereal calm. The execution is majestically light and graceful. The musical presentation has a quiet and surreal demeanor that’s both regal and sophisticated. His delivery is thoughtful, carefully phrased and reflective. Ramsey plays an extended solo passage that is classy and respectful, with excellent use of rests and carefully crafted crescendos. Ramsey Lewis transitions through several moods from slow and thoughtful to vibrant and joyful crescendos. His performance has a total improvisational feel throughout.

    

Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Ramsey speaks of Nancy: “One of the great singers of all time.” Nancy Wilson joins Ramey Lewis for, “God Bless The Child.” The arrangement is sensuous, subdued and very telling. Rests are used effectively for distinct emotional emphasis. Nancy’s vocal delivery is eloquent, with great stops for dynamic contrast. She reveals profound emotional facial gestures. Nancy uses the microphone in a very unusual expressive delivery. Ramsey executes an inventive embellishment of the melody.

    

Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Diane Reeves appears next and gives a rousing testimonial to Nancy Wilson. Diane Reeves performs a vintage Nancy Wilson song, “Over The Weekend.” Her vocal delivery is slow and methodical. Diane Reeves spectacular vocal presentation is majestic and remarkable.

    

Diane Reeves

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Diane’s second vintage Nancy Wilson selection is, “Midnight Sun.” Diane’s vocal delivery is sensuous, magical, full and deep. Diane Reeves is very expressive and deliberate. She passionately sings the lyrics, “After you were gone… I saw the midnight sun.” Diane Reeves’ performance is magnificent. What an amazing presence. Diane and Nancy sing a duet: the Cannonball Adderley composition, “Happy Talk.” They alternate verses as they work off the sheet music together.

    

Diane Reeves

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       The final part of the show features, “Never Will I Marry.” This is a upbeat swing. Nancy sings the lyrics, “Born to wander till I’m dead.” The piano solo is excellent. Nancy’s vocal delivery is strong, expressive and determined. Nancy performs, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Her vocal presentation is slow and expressive, with delicate, delicious and delightful phrasing. Nancy further demonstrates her impassioned vociferous outbursts with expressive arm gestures and a vocal growl for emphasis. This is a spectacular version, that is genuinely significant, sensuous and absolutely sexy.

    

Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Nancy Wilson performs the Dizzy Gillespie tune, “Day In, Day Out.” The music lifts us all, as the audience is literally rockin’. The piano solo is extraordinary, as Nancy is really swingin’. Nancy performs “Guess Who I Saw Today.” She tells us, “I’m kind, patient and understanding; but never on the same day.” Her vocal delivery is uniquely expressive. She sings it slow, sassy and sensuous. What a uniquely creative musical storyteller. The audience stands and applauds this incredible presentation.

    

Nancy Wilson

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Nancy now has a special tribute for her trio of many, many years. The band smiles and acknowledges this very special moment. The final song is, “How Long Has This Been Going On.” The musical groove is very upbeat. The drummer complements with bright cymbal figures and the piano accompaniment is cleverly creative. There is an excellent piano solo. There are sharp accents for dynamic effect.

    

Final Bow

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       This momentous night ends with everyone on stage taking bows. Nancy Wilson even gets down on one knee, to acknowledge her supreme gratitude. Truly, this is a night to remember: a glowing tribute to an unparalleled American musical icon, the great, great Nancy Wilson!!

    

Nancy Wilson, down on one knee

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.


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A.J. Alfaro

and.the.beat.goes.on@worldnet.att.net