Monday, August 05, 2002

Laine gives American jazz a British accent

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        To Kathy Wade, music education is best taught from a multicultural angle, and the Crown Jewels of Jazz concert at the ballroom of Music Hall Saturday night drove home her point.

        The Cincinnati jazz vocalist and arts advocate is the force behind the locally-produced concert series, The 'Hood Is Bigger Than You Think Tour, which stages performances throughout the area. This year's edition concluded with the Saturday-night show starring Ms. Wade and English jazz singer Cleo Laine. The black-tie affair, which drew 450, included a set from each singer, as well as an award ceremony presented by Ms. Wade's Learning Through Art program.

        Ms. Laine and her four-piece band headlined. The combo featured her husband, John Dankworth, on saxophone. There was plenty of dry English humor shared between husband and wife during song introductions, while the music itself was first-rate performances of American jazz standards.

        She was as at ease with Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and W.C. Handy as she was with that fellow who had been overlooked as a jazz lyricist all those years, William Shakespeare. Reprising her 1964 album Shakespeare and All that Jazz, Ms. Laine took a couple of the Bard's compositions (The Tempest's “Where The Bee Sucks, There Suck I” and his 18th sonnet) and sang them jazz-style to Mr. Dankworth's arrangements.

        A poignant moment in the show came during the intro to “I Don't Know Why (I Just Do).” Ms. Laine noted that when she recorded the song in 1982, the personnel included two men who have recently died — bassist Ray Brown and actor and jazz aficionado Dudley Moore on piano.

        Backed by a trio, Ms. Wade was swinging the standards in 45-minute set, from “All of Me” to “Bye Bye Blackbird.” She turned the latter into an audience-participation call-and-response, with the crowd taking the title-lyric duties.

        Her set gave a nod to Cincinnati's musical past, with a cover Little Willie John's King Records hit-turned-jazz-pop classic, “Fever.”


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