|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
The Numinosum Blog
Last night, March 26th, I attended the New England Conservatory's Vocal Showcase at Joe's Pub. This was part of NEC's week-long celebration, Hot and Cool-40 years of Jazz at NEC. Now while I did not attend NEC, I was interested in this particular concert because it featured so many incredible singers I work with. Two-thirds of the featured singers on the Joe's Pub concert (Amy Cervini, Sara Serpa, Jo Lawry, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis) also sing with Numinous. In addition, with other fabulous NEC singing alums and Numinous singers such as Monika Heidemann, Wendy Gilles (both of whom attended the concert but did not sing on the concert) and Julie Hardy as well as another NEC alum and Numinous member, Carmen Staaf, rounding out the piano chair for the night, frankly, I probably should have been on the NEC guest list!
Anyway, why do many of the singers I use come from NEC? Well, besides being wonderful musicians and composers with distinct styles and characters of their own, one hint to the answer to that question is certainly who they studied with: Dominique Eade. The jazz vocal guru at NEC since 1984 as well as a private teacher in New York City, she has also taught and mentored Luciana Souza, Kate McGarry, Roberta Gambarini and many of jazz's most dynamic singers. Ms. Eade showed she is an assured and impressive talent-deserving-wider-attention herself with a performance of two songs at the end of the evening. First was her own composition, "Chasing the Setting Sun" which was an a cappella, mostly wordless improvisatorial tour-de-force that was 'Bobby McFerrin meets Meredith Monk'-like in its rhythmic and percussive sounds that vertiginously tumbled through the space and had the entire audience enraptured. Second was her quiet reading of the standard, "Body and Soul" which mostly showcased the subtle talents of the rhythm section, all alums of NEC as well: the aforementioned Carmen Staaf on piano, Jorge Roeder on bass, and Richie Barshay on drums. Ms. Eade's singing was supple, powerful, and wonderful and one could tell right from the first sounds from her mouth, that she is no typical 'jazz' singer. All sorts of music informs her distinct style and I think this would definitely make an impression on anyone that studies with her. As Amy said from stage during one of the breaks between singers, "you can probably hear a little bit of Dominique in every singer tonight." And while each of the former students are coming from different perspectives and backgrounds, this statement became readily apparent as you listened to each sing.
The night opened in an almost familial tone as David "Mark Murphy" Devoe (the nickname stems from a statement he made on stage), a doctoral candidate at NEC, singing a mostly straight-ahead tune and displaying some nice scat chops. Sara Serpa then sang a beautiful original composition, "Space" which had a lovely compositional arc and featured Sara's sinuously melodic and soaring wordless improvisation. Amy Cervini was next with a pitch-perfect and fun rendition of Nellie McKay's "I Wanna Get Married." All of 8-months pregnant and singing lyrics such as, "I need to cook meals/I want to pack you little lunches/for my Brady Bunches/then read Danielle Steele," Amy interpreted the song with a savory amount of tongue-and-cheek humor and earnest wistfulness. Sofia Rei Koutsovitis sang a song in Spanish which utilized vocal electronic delay and live sampling of her own voice to set-up a weaving pattern of voices which was an effective and sometimes almost ghostly result. Patrice Williamson came on next to sing "Close Your Eyes," the most straight-ahead tune of the evening. Here she let loose with some fine scat singing and the rhythm section was able to stretch their own swinging muscles. Jo Lawry, another doctoral candidate who is temporarily putting off the degree to tour with Sting (yes, THAT Sting) this summer, came on with her harmonium and tastefully sang the lovely composition "Palhaço." Portuguese for 'clown,' the song was originally a solo guitar piece that Jo wrote lyrics to by the unheralded (sadly in the US, that is) composer and guitarist from Brazil, Egberto Gismonti. Then David, Sara, Amy, Sofia, Patrice, and Jo all filled the stage to perform an original composition by Dominique Eade. The song both opened and ended with more choral-like a cappella sections, however the middle section was where the meat was, so to speak: a faintly Middle Eastern-like groove established by overlapping little motifs in the voices as well as hand claps and hand percussion, all laid the rhythmic foundation for each singer to individually improvise over. Here each singer's approach and personality came through in their solos; some more deliciously tonally exploratory and melodic (Jo, Sara) or more extrovertedly joyous (Sofia, Amy) or more jazzy-like (Patrice, David), and was a great lead-in for Dominique Eade's previously mentioned two songs that closed the evening.
The advertising tag-line to the NEC's Jazz at 40 celebration is "Don't stay home" and with last night's showcase concert at Joe's Pub, I'm glad I didn't.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 3:08 PM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.