Thursday, July 16, 2009

From the club to the house of opera

Last night I performed at Yoshi’s in Oakland for the first time. I performed at Yoshi's in San Francisco last year, but "Yoshi's" has always meant the Oakland location in my mind, so it was nice to be there. Singer/songwriter/producer Benjie Ross was the headliner in an evening presented by KBLX, featuring R&B and Jazz artists, including local bassist Arlington Houston, with whom I've performed before. There were a few audio issues, but overall the show was fun and successful. I didn't know the opening artist, but Arlington's band sounded great! Benjie's band did too, once the audio kinks were worked out! I had a chance to play with my OYC fellow alum, singer Michael Cheadle and his daughter, Mickala. Also in the band were singers Kimiko Joy, Mykah Montgomery, Nikki Grier, guitarist Cedricke Dennis , and drummer Michael McGee.

The day before the Yoshi's show, my friend Candace Johnson, an extraordinary soprano with whom I work, invited me to a dinner party hosted by my fellow Oberlin alum, Robert Sims. Unfortunately, the party conflicted with my Yoshi's gig and I was afraid I’d miss the party. But no! The Yoshi's gig ended in time for me to pack up my gear and whiz over to the party just as the music was to begin! The party was attended by a few fabulous singers and happy listeners, including Robert Sims, Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke, Hope Briggs, Candace Johnson, and the incredible Jacqueline Hairston, who’s not only a wonderful pianist, but a superlative composer. The rules were that each singer would perform 1 or 2 pieces, starting with Robert. Many of the pieces were spirituals arranged and accompanied by Jacqueline. Beautiful music expressed through stunningly beautiful voices. I was in heaven! Candace and I performed Jacqueline’s work “On Consciousness Streams”, a 3 song cycle, with piano accompaniment that is certainly challenging. My sight-reading skills were put to the test (I hadn’t played the pieces since December and was rusty)! But I had such a great time! I love my job! Nights like that make me even more determined to figure out how to parcel my time so that I can practice not only Wonder music, but also keep my sight reading chops and my virtuoso music in shape. I’ll get there…

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