“[Billie] Holiday (1915-59) is widely recognized as the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, a performer who revolutionized the art of jazz singing in the 1930s and exerted a powerful influence on subsequent vocalists. At her peak from 1935 to 1945, her voice (modelled on those of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith) was a unique blend of vulnerability, innocence and sexuality, attributes that won her a popular following. She had an uncanny ability to recompose well-known tunes as she sang them, creating memorable variations full of expressive leaps, pitch-bending and contrasting tone qualities.” ―“Jazz,” by Mervyn Cooke (London, 1998).
‘Lady Day’ Coming Live to Anacostia Playhouse
The wonder of the music of Billie Holiday and the jazz of her era comes east of the river when the Anacostia Playhouse stages “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” on July 15 through Aug. 6.
The play stars Anya Randall Nebel, with Tom Flatt as the director and music by Lanie Robertson. The story is from March 1959 in South Philadelphia, where Holiday is performing “in a run-down bar, during one of her last performances four months before her death in July 1959,” and “she sings, accompanied by Jimmie Powers on the piano, and tells stories about her life,” according to Anacostia Playhouse information.
“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” premiered in 1986 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and has been staged in many other locations, including Broadway in New York. Tunes to be performed include “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone,” “When a Woman Loves a Man,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” “God Bless the Child,” “Easy Livin,” “Strange Fruit,” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”
Nebel has been a professional actress “regionally, nationally and internationally for the past 25 years,” according to publicity for the show. She also assists with the programming at the Anacostia Playhouse, where she has taught, produced, and done costume design.
According to Nebel’s website, www.anyanebel.com, she has directed productions including “A Chorus Line,” “Evita,” and “Rent.” And in 2004 she appeared as Carol Ann in HBO’s “The Wire” and was featured in the national tours of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Showtimes at Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE, are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40; $30 seniors and students residents of Wards 7 and 8; $80 for tickets and after-party with food and entertainment.
For more information call 202-290-2328 or go to www.anacostiaplayhouse.com.
InReview … Tarus Mateen’s ‘Arising Saints’
Tarus Mateen’s website says, “Playing as part of a new generation of jazz crusaders, with award winning artists such as Jason Moran, Nasheet Waits, Marc Cary and Roy Hargrove, Tarus is the world’s best bassist.”
Over the top hyperbole? Maybe not. His most recent album, “Arising Saints,” is a winner for area resident Mateen, whom we have enjoyed up close and personal for the last several years, playing genres spanning hip-hop, soul, funk, and all kinds of jazz.
“Arising Saints” sizzles with Mateen tunes like “Africa Tarus,” a free flowing, ripping, rollicking jam with Mateen’s booming, grooving work on bass driving things to a fever pitch; the catchy, melodic title tune with Mateen exploring, plucking hard, and spiraling a gem of a lilting journey; “Be You,” featuring vocalist Brittany Tanner loving’s caresses; and maybe the highlight, the hypnotic “Ode for Yusef Lateef” with Mateen’s bright grooves over the keyboard and guitar melodies. See www.tarusmateen.com.
July Highlights: … Sarah Hughes, July 9, Twins Jazz … Keigo Hirakawa Trio, July 12, Twins Jazz … Marty Nau, July 13, Twins Jazz … Capital Fringe Festival/Tarus Mateen, July 13, Franklin Park … Michael Thomas Quintet, July 14, Westminster Presbyterian Church … “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” July 15-30, Anacostia Playhouse … Greater U Street Jazz Collective w/Sendy Brown, July 17, Vicino’s/Silver Spring … Twins Jazz Orchestra, July 20, Twins Jazz … Poncho Sanchez, July 20-23, Blues Alley … Mavis Waters Jazz Ensemble, July 21, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Ted Chubb Band, July 21-22, Twins Jazz … Annapolis Jazztet, July 22, Germano’s Piattini/Baltimore … Loston Harris Trio/Mark Whitfield, July 27, Blues Alley … Jack Waugh Quartet, July 27, Twins Jazz … The Wolfolk Group/Sendy Brown, July 28, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Cecil Brooks III, July 28-29, Twins Jazz … Robert Shahid w/The Greg Hatza Organization, July 29, Caton Castle/Baltimore …
July Birthdays: Rashied Ali 1; Ahmad Jamal 2; Johnny Hartman 3; Hank Mobley 7; Louis Jordan 8; Billy Eckstine, Lee Morgan 10; Albert Ayler 13; Philly Joe Jones 15; Cal Tjader 16; Chico Freeman 17; Sonny Clark 21; Billy Taylor 24; Johnny Hodges 25; Carl Grubbs 27; Charlie Christian 29; Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell 31
Steve Monroe is a Washington, DC, writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.