After the trio of Donald Smith
on piano, Rachiim Ausar-Sahu on bass, and Andrei Strobert on drums opened
the evening with John Coltrane’s superior standard “Naima,” a sound
came from off stage: beautiful bars of a bodiless ballad, “All The
Things You Are.”
embraced the room; the room embraced the sound.
The trio staged a still life sculpture of silence.
There was no singer, only the song.
One heard the height of the song, the weight of the song, the
color, contour, and core of the song – a full chorus of a cappella
artistry in anonymity.
came the emergence of the singer entering the second chorus as the trio
materialized into the moment.
now saw the song: Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch – the physical confirmation
of the ballad and its beauty.
voice now became the very sound of sunrise while her spirit flowed freely
with full moon force.
songs were a cultural celebration of cloudless skies in
a hemisphere of holistic heat.
Her presence projected a pastel of passion, a portrait of poise.
“All The Things You Are,” Cumberbatch continued by connecting a
distant solar system to a doo-wop street corner in her audience
participatory adventurous arrangement of the beautiful Thelonious Monk
was a swing tempo vivacious version of “Exactly Like You.”
Then came her intense interpretation of “The Blues Are Brewin’”
dedicated to Ms. Blackwell “who does everything for the church but loves
sang, hummed, and moaned with consuming conviction while Smith galvanized
the piano into a blues book of gospel graphics.
The following composition, a bossa nova entitled “If You Never
Come To Me” exhibited the richness of her vocal range, displaying deep
tones and showcasing stylistic smoothness.
On this, Strobert played the snare and tom-tom with the palms of
his hands while his foot maintained high-hat dominance.
came the bright, brilliant, and buoyant entry of Ellington’s “I’m
Beginning To See The Light” and the blissful ballad “Like A Lover”
with a stirring solo by Smith. Cumberbatch closed out the first half with the unique and
ultimate support song for Black
who are “not ready” entitled “Pour It On Him Anyway” in which she
avidly advised Black women to “Shower him with your love, drench him
with your love, wet him with your love, and saturate him with your
the second half, the trio reset the stage with a rousing rendition of
Ellington’s “Caravan” which featured an invigorating introduction by
Strobert, the piano pyrotechnics of Smith and a show stopping solo by
returned with a jubilant interpretation of Clifford Brown’s “Joy
Spring,” the magical mood of the mellow “Dreamer,” and an uptempo
version of “I
What Time It Was” which she ended with an extended scatting showcase of
was Djovan’s significant song “Samba Do Brado” which Cumberbatch
explained told the story of how the samba came to Brazil by simulating the
rhythm of Afrikan men shuffling their chains and the rhythm of Afrikan
women shaking their hips.
Cumberbatch gave us an authoritative earful of Portuguese lyrics, Strobert
augmented his percussive authentication with atmospheric bird calls.
A devastating delivery of Diedre Murray’s dynamic “Last
Waltz” followed, excerpted from her larger opus, “Unending Pain.”
Cumberbatch then treated the audience to a surprise guest vocalist
Patsy Grant who sang a straight ahead, slow swing, crowd pleasing version
of “Day By Day” while Cumberbatch crooned in creative and
Silver’s “Peace” was a duet vehicle for the vocal skills of Smith
who complemented Cumberbatch with spirit and sensitivity.
Next was Erskine Hawkins’ “Tuxedo Junction” which became the
catalyst for a couple to jump up and dance.
In fact, I wanted to dance myself but reluctantly opted to maintain
then delighted the crowd by converting “The Man From Ipanema” into
“The Man From Brooklyn.” She closed with her own composition “Daughters of the
Nile” which was inspired by Julie Dash’s film “Daughters of the
For this final
entry, the therapeutic value of wholesome lyrics and organic music reached
Each solo was
an exhibit of extended exuberance.
must be additionally commended for extensively exposing the work of great
GEORGE EDWARD TAIT
Name: NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS