Nnenna Freelon live at IAJE

Nnenna Freelon Live at IAJE 2003
Nnenna Freelon

Toronto, Canada ­ January 10, 2003
by Matt Robinson

After an extensive introduction by IAJE denizen and Jazz legend Dr Billy Taylor, sharp chanteuse Nnenna Freelon was overtured by her hot, percussion-laden quintet, whose opening licks were as bright as Freelon’s smile, her Mylar skirt and her very presence. From note one of “Mind Excursion,” Freelon had the audience taking the trip with her, escaping the snowy doldrums of Toronto to an island of energy. Throughout the set, Freelon and her band stood on the shoulders of musical giants and used their lofty perspective to see old songs in new ways. A bass-led Rhumba of “Them There Eyes” got Convention Hall grooving like The Apollo Theatre and that deep groove stayed through a spare contrasts of an “All or Nothing At All” that swung from Cumbia to Blues and back.

Taking time to appreciate the “flowers” of music while she could still “smell” them, Freelon crept through her aural garden into a fragrant aria of “Fly Me to the Moon.”Before taking “Body and Soul” to Kingstown, Freelon injected the 75-year-old timely standard “You Belong to Me” with enough funk and soul to be a hit again. Speaking of contemporary and timeless hits, Freelon then offered a pair of pieces from her most recent recording, a tribute to modern giant Stevie Wonder. “My Cherie Amour” was a relatively straight shot, but the glistening “Tears of Clown” was filled with almost operatic drama and closed with a coda of “Motherless Child” that silenced the otherwise audibly appreciative (and occasionally accompanying) crowd.

©2003 M. S. Robinson, ARR