June 14, 2024
Live at Scullers
Maggie Scott PresentsA Tribute to the Vintage Singers of the Past by Singers of the Present

(Boston – September 26, 2006)
by Matthew Robinson

Many a great idea has been thought up on a train. The Gettysburg Address stands out as one. But now there is at least one more- A star-studded Jazz concert of contemporary singers paying tribute to legends of the past.

Only at a place like the award-winning Scullers with Entertainment Director Fre Taylor at the helm could come up with something like this and only with a partner in crime like Boston piano queen Maggie Scott.

From Peggy Lee to Joe Williams, this super show featured songs from some of Jazz’s greatest vocalists, all baked by Scott and her talented rhythm section of bassist John Lockwood and drummer Gary Johnson (a local legacy in his own right as the son of bandleader Dick Johnson).

After Scott and the boys opened up with an uptempo and clearly not-tearful “Willow Weep for Me,” Paul Broadnax took to the keys and mic for a three-song set of strutty clutches and clever reworkings of personal favorites. Though his body and voice had slimmed down a bit, Broadnax was able to keep the crowd smiling and snapping with an uncharacteristically peppy “Everyday I Get the Blues,” a sleepier “I Had a Dream” and an accelerated swing through “Pretty Baby” that lost the lyrics in the rear view mirror.

Starting with a cool and tight “Perdido,” Eula Lawrence paid homage to Sarah (the audience filled in the last name). After a rendition of “Misty” that was pleasantly so, Lawrence closed with a cheerful clap-along of “World on a String” that let Maggie and the boys play.

Next, it was time for the Chairman of the Boston board, Steve Marvin, to do his thing. Despite his desire to fete Frank, “Witchcraft” let plenty of Steve shine through, and when he honored a request by Taylor for “Little Girl Blue, it was presented with personal care. With so many songs to choose from, Marvin settled (though not in a bad way) on a hip “Under My Skin” that was backed by Jumbo-sized resonance and propelled by subtly inventive bass and stop on a dime trap work.

After “Frank,” Donna Byrne took the stage looking very much like a young Nancy Sinatrabut singing with much more power and control. Thankful to be a tribute-er, Byrne burned up the stage with a trio of Peggy Lee songs including a slinky, scatty, and sexy “Do Right (Gimme Some Money Too),” a touching private tribute “He Needs Me” amd a Horne-y pump through “Lover” that ended the set with bravado.

After Byrne’s big set, it wa time for Big Bopper-esuqe Swing man Jim Porcella (aka, “Bombay Jim”) to offer a dead-on set of Golden Fog chestnuts, including a warm and sparkling rendition of that famous Torme tune that mentions the roasting filberts themselves. His “Lullabye of Birdland” was fun, but closing with “Lulu’s Back in Town” got the audience up and amped.

Fortunately, diva/drama queen Rebecca Parris was ready to take on the challenge. Putting down her walking stick, Parris took up the gauntlet that had been laid down by her talented friends and went further, honoring her inspiration Ella and her accompanist and idol Maggie with a combination of Swing and Bossa that kept the band on their toes and brought the audience to their feet. From an encompassing “All of You” to a superb “Lady Be Good” to a back-and-forth scat through “Old Devil Moon,” Parris and the band mixed it up and kept it going before bringing the entire cast for a “front and centah” encore of “I Love Being Here with You” that, despite requiring some lyric assistance, got everyone jamming and laughing and the crowd hoping and hollering and begging for more- a more that Taylor promised when he entitled this first foray “Volume One.” “ ©2006 M. S. Robinson, ARR

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