New York Day 1: Daryl & Stephanie

Daryl Sherman Adrian Cunningham

Daryl Sherman and Adrian Cunningham during their performance at Pangea on Saturday.

Daryl Sherman had the crowd at Pangea in her hands during yesterday’s Jazz Brunch performance at this lovely East Village club. She interacted in her typically cheerful, satirical manners with her audience, which she charmingly called her boite. As usual, her repertoire consisted of standards and songs from the Great American songbook, but of the lesser-known type. But she also did a few favorites like “Skylark”, where she showed her thrilling capability of really inheriting the lyrics.

And she had a superb comrade at her side: Adrian Cunningham not only accompanied her on clarinet, flute, and tenor sax, but he was more like having a conversation with her, intertwining with vocal and piano, sometimes echoing that little sentiment, the little nuance of the singer’s interpretation. A couple of instrumentals showcased the really intimate impact here, like on the Johnny Mandel/Johnny Mercer beauty “Emily”. As usual, Darryl introduced most of the songs with a detailed description and humorous background info.

Stephanie Mills

Stephanie Mills on stage at B.B. King’s last night.

Stephanie Mills conquered the stage at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in the brutally crowded Times Square neighborhood with the very first notes of “Never Knew Love Like This Before” which was followed by “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'” and what was to become a greatest hits set and a magical trip down memory lane. The packed house sang along to classics like “Feel The Fire” or “Two Hearts”, the latter with a pretty commanding, spiced-up arrangement. Frau Mills’ voice still has this utterly strong capability of hitting you directly in your heart and soul. She soared to blissful heights on ballads like “I Feel Good All Over” and the Àngela Winbush hymn “I Have Learned To Respect The Power Of Love” and easily meandered through her disco-soul anthems like “Something In The Way You Make Me Feel” and gracefully danced her way through the Studio 54 groover “Put Your Body In It”.

Her three male background vocalists each had the chance to solo for a few moments and each one sounded much better, stronger, and more compelling than anyone who is on the r&b charts today and calls himself a soul singer. The only song that didn’t come across was the strangely mixed “You’re Puttin’ A Rush On Me”. And of course, Stephanie concluded her heavenly set with her signature song which she sang on Broadway when she was a 17-year old: the majestic power of her performance of “Home” from The Wizard Of Oz hadn’t lost anything of its superiority and knack 42 years later. We have witnessed a trance-like interpretation of a consummate artist. Needless to say that Stephanie, who will turn 60 next March, looked more like 29 instead of 59.

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