Jazz Goes To Church! Tri-C Jazzfest: Tribute to Nina Simone ft. Ki Allen and Kellylee Evans

Gospel is the oldest form of music documented, and Jazz has been greatly influenced by a lot of former and current Gospel singers and musicians: the depth of soul, passion and feeling has been infused in the rifts, scats, and minor chords we know as Jazz.  Nina Simone aka “The High Priestess of Soul” was one of the most prolific Jazz vocalists and songwriters in the genre.  Undisputed.  And this I know because of those who have shared her music with me, as when she was at the stride of her career I was too young to appreciate her.  Most, like me, only know a few of her songs.  I was really looking forward to this event, and wow, was I in for a TREAT!

Held at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, the house was filled and the air was festive as Ki Allen began the program.  She took us thru a catalog of songs that were motivating, uplifting, and smoky, like “I’m Here”, and the infamous “Four Women”.

Ronnie O’Dell, Drums

Sammy DeLeon, Percussion

Chris Anderson -Trombone and local artist [now a Jersey resident] Curtis Taylor-Trumpet

Dr. David Thomas, Piano

 Bob Fraser, Guitar

Ki Allen is a really great vocalist with a nice contralto that has a few hints of the great Sarah Vaughn, but with a style all her own that compliments Nina’s music nicely, as we experienced on “Wild Is The Wind”, and the infamous “Four Women” [no, it was not by Kelly, Marsha, Jill and Ledisi..lol.  Just a tribute], and on the playful “My Baby Just Cares For Me”. Special nod to Bob Fraser. In an age where music has a face that is not even old enough to go and perform in a Jazz club, it was good to see a seasoned musician playing skillfully!  Technology has nothing on Bob!  Be sure to check out Ki at The Brothers Lounge, where she performs every Monday night, 

Curtis Taylor, who has a band called Skope.  He is a phenomenal trumpeter, and a super cool guy. This is Alumni folks!

Intermission, and we all took time to greet each other; not even really knowing each other, just happy to be in a room where, just like a church service, everyone was on one accord. The crowd was warm and friendly, and beautifully brown as Kellylee noticed “This is the most [brown] people that I have ever performed for!” she laughed.  We all joined in, and applauded ourselves for embracing a jewel in our heritage.

Kellylee Evans is a Jazz singer of a different order.  She entered the sanctuary, bowed, walked to the mic, and turned into what I have now baptized her as “The Rockstar of Jazz”.  Barefoot and dancing, Kellylee Evans showed us why she is a recipient of Juno and Gemini awards, as well as placing 2nd in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocals Competition.

Kellylee engaged the audience as she sang to them, taking hands, making eye contact and having us laughing in the aisles with her wit, and mesmerized us as she took us on a diverse stroll thru Nina’s work; “Ne Me Quitte Pas”; “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and a heart-wrenching “I Loves You Porgy” that emoted the passion of unrequited love.

Kicking it up a notch, her love for reggae/dub was infused into her rendition of “Sinnerman” as we cried out “Power!” along with her. Barefoot and dancing, we tapped our feet, nodded our heads and stood to our feet as Marvin Sewell – Drums, Mark McClain – Guitar and Francois Moutin – Bass went totally rockstar with her, especially when she stood on a pew and sang “Victory” then jumped up in the air rocker style to end the song, bounding off stage left.

Tri-C, in it’s 33rd year, has once again provided us with some of the best of the best in Jazz, and a beautiful multi-cultural setting both on the stage from 3 countries as well as the diversity of listeners from barely legal to beautifully gray lent to the true appreciation felt by all for live music, incredibly vocals, and excellence in Jazz.

Don’t miss out folks. There is still a week of Jazz to go!  Be sure to check out the events remaining on http://www.tricpresents.com and purchase a ticket.  There is something for everyone.  Even if you are not a devout Jazz enthusiast, there is some purely great music being represented here, and a lot of Cleveland artists are involved!

You will NOT be disappointed!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest


 Willard Jenkins,  Jazzfest Artistic Director      Chris Taylor, Trumpet

Barefoot in the Jazz                        Ki Allen, “Cliffie” Business Mgr., Kellylee Evans

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