“Lady Sings the Blues” with Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers
Plus the winner of the HJF Student Jazz Combo Competition
Raven Theater, 115 North St.
Friday, June 9, 7:30 p.m.
$45 and $30
Making a long-awaited festival debut, Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers pay tribute to the great women singers of blues and jazz. Here, timeless songs associated with such vocal legends as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington (as well as such under-the-radar notables as Ivey Anderson, Helen Hums and Joya Sherrill) will be heard again, as interpreted by a first rate singer who lives and breathes the music of her heroines.
Supporting her will be the Red Hot Skillet Lickers featuring Mike Olmos on trumpet, Danny Armstrong on trombone, Jules Broussard on alto saxophone, Rob Barics on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Ron Belcher on string bass and Howard Wiley on drums. Under the direction of pianist Chris Siebert (Smith’s husband), this jumping unit is as deeply immersed in the sounds of traditional jazz and swing as their similarly obsessed leader.
While other bands play “at” this style of music, milking it for its nostalgia-cool vibe, Smith and her cohorts sound as if they have been playing it all their lives. There’s an authenticity about their approach that is immediate and unmistakable. As critic Bob Blumenthal put it, “Lavay and her [band] are a notable exception to the retro-swing norm. The saucy vocalist and her crew actually know the difference between jump music and bland R&B in corny suits. They have been a working unit since 1989 and sound as tight as the legendary musicians they choose to emulate.”
As seriously as Smith and the band take the music, they still want to make a party out of a performance. Smith’s sensual earthiness can make a sing pop clear off the stage, while the groove that the Skillet Lickers stir up might send you straight to the aisles to boogie. Lady sings the blues? Indeed, she does.