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SONGBIRD IRENE REID
RETURNS TO JAZZ 966

     You’ve seen her face at a Saturday night club with hard liquor glistening on her lips.  You’ve seen it again in a Sunday morning church pew with gospel hymns glowing in her heart.  You’ve seen her face on a high priestess deep in the bush where no foreign foot has trespassed or tainted.  You’ve seen it lingering in her lover’s eyes misty in the month of May.  And you’ve seen it, again, when he dumped her, drawn up into deep despair.

     You’ve heard her voice on the elder’s tongue and again emerging from the teacher’s throat.  You’ve heard its innocence in an infant’s sound seven seconds before sleep.  You’ve heard her voice in the west wind’s wail and named it Mother Nature.  You know her.  She sings ballads and lives the blues.  Her name is Irene Reid.

     On Friday, June 28, Reid returns to Brooklyn’s Jazz 966 on Fulton Street by popular demand and December promise.  Those who experienced Reid’s last engagement there in December have been anxiously awaiting her return.

     The December crowd cannot help but recall Reid’s relatively recent appearance at the club.  It left such an indelible impression on them that it might as well have occurred last night.  With Ernie Jones on organ and vocals, Bill Phipps on tenor and flute, and Jesse “Cheese” Hameen on drums, Reid delivered a definitive blues program punctuated by blissful ballads.

     Reid opened with a marathon mix of bawdy blues.  The festive crowd followed every line, listening and laughing throughout a litany of licentious lyrics.  The club itself was a citadel of comfort, a dimly lit living room full of family members enthralled and enlightened by the escapades of their raunchiest relative rendering a rousing retrospective of romance running amok.

     In romance, there is the sky above and the street below; Reid sings the streetside.  Sometimes, there is even the smell of sewage, but she is never offensive.  Ribaldry is an art; rawness is an act.  The difference between the professionals and the pretenders is in the proof and purity of the product.  Reid combines rawness and romance to coin “rawmance.”  Her blues is a book of beauty in its boldness.  The lyrics are lessons of life and the log of living it.  She has translated private thoughts and powder-room talk into performance truth.  Once this truth is on the table, it becomes therapy.

     Reid is the mirror in your closet and the window by your neighbor’s bed.  She is the headboard and footlocker of memories, motives, mishaps and mistakes.  She’s the chronological wire connecting the introspection of your present with the indiscretions of your past.

     She sang of neglect: “You went too far, you stayed too long, and you got back a little too late; now, another man’s cooking in your kitchen, another man’s eating out of your plate.”  She sang of compromise and cooperation: “Girl, you can have that no-good husband of mine, but please don’t mess with my man.”  She sang of mendacity: “You say you’re goin’ fishin’, but I know that you ain’t; ‘cause I never saw a fish with no lipstick,  powder, and paint.”  But when reincarnated hard-hearted Hannah, she wreaked havoc in the club: “When I had that one-eyed man, I didn’t know what I had; I used to be so mean and evil, I treated that man oh so bad.”  She continued, “I used to pick a fight just to see that one-eyed man cry; I used to think it was funny to see him crying out of one eye.”  She concluded, “My one-eyed man found him a one-legged girl; now, I don’t think that’s so funny, ‘cause that thing really rocked my world.”

     After singing the definitive double-entendre classic “Long John” about the dentist and his trusty drill, she gave the audience a beautiful breather of romantic relief with “On Broadway” and “Me and Mr. Jones” – two delightful duets with Ernie Jones, “Sweet Pumpkin,” featuring a strong saxophone solo by Bill Phipps, and “Didn’t We.”

     Reid then did a magnificent marathon medley manifesto entitled, “A Little Trip to Dinah’s Corner,” featuring two dozen compositions associated with Dinah Washington.  She began with “This Bitter Earth” and included “What A Difference A Day Makes,” “I Wanna Be Loved,” “Guilty,” “Blue Gardenia,” “I’m A Fool To Want You,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” “Cry Me A River,” “Since I Fell For You,” “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “I Thought About You,” “Can’t Stop Lovin’ That Man,” “I Cover The Waterfront,” “Skylark,” “God Bless The Child,” “I’m Confessin’,” and “The More I See You.”  She then closed out the first half with a fiery blues, “Drive Me Daddy.”

     In the second half she did “Fat Daddy,” “Candy,” – a delectable duet with Ernie Jones, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” “I’ll Take You Back,” and “All Right, O.K., You Win.”  She continued to break the back of the blues with “Hey lady!  Honey, your husband’s cheating on us,” and “I got a man who’s 78, slow as he can be; my friends think I’m crazy, but his will’s made out to me.”

     Reid is the diva of dirty blues.  But her blues cleanses as much as soap operas corrupt.  The difference between the soap opera “star” and the “dirty blues” diva is the distinction between what might be meant by  Baraka’s book “Art and Art Not.”  Reid is an artist.  The absence of art is anarchy.

     Mention must also be made of the band’s interpretation of Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe” featuring the incredible Jesse “Cheese” Hameen who rhythmically signs his name to the song as “Killer Jess.”  His drumwork is so detailed and dynamic that at one point he actually played the melody line on the drums.  Truly a sight to be seen and a sound to be heard.

     Reid promised to return, and on June 28, she’ll keep her promise.  Come see a face of beauty; come hear the voice of blues.  Come touch a moment of truth.

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Author: GEORGE EDWARD TAIT

Publication Name: NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS

Publication Date: 06-01-96

 

 

 
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