This performance was worth the trip alone: Lisa Fischer and Ledisi perform the music of Nina Simone accompanied by the Metropole Orkest with Jules Buckley conducting. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that both Ledisi and Lisa Fischer are among the most amazing vocalists around today. What they brought to the table last night was clearly out of this world. Equally fascinating were the arrangements by Jules Buckley. It all added up to a one-of-a-kind performance, easily making this the highlight of the festival this year. The shuffling rhythm on “See-Line Woman” was simply hypnotic. Lisa was in total command of the track, with the three superb backing vocalists adding some mantra-like spice. Ledisi started the evening with “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, which was arranged in a classic 50s swing style. She later wowed the audience and everyone on stage with her impeccable version of “Ne Me Quitte Pas”, which almost brought us to tears. Lisa had to follow that up and admitted that she had to find a way not to shed a tear and that’s why she tried to think of other things, like having to do the laundry later. It was total bliss.
The two got together with their backing vocalists for a chanting “Be My Husband”, a percussive jam with lots of energy. Lisa was belting out “Mississippi Goddamn” like there was no tomorrow. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was crazy and “Four Women” haunting and provocative, once again with the full ensemble. It was fascinating to witness the sublime vocals of Lisa on “I Loves You Porgy”. For the grand finale, everyone got together for “Feeling Good”, another example of the imaginative and lively arrangements of Jules Buckley.
So I had to move on to something completely different. Drummer Nate Smith played Congo with his group Kinfolk which included the great Jon Cowherd on piano and keys. His sophisticated drumming style was complemented by the fierceful sax playing of Jaleel Shaw. Amma Whatt added some spice on vocals, as was singer Michael Mayo on one track (he’s the son of much sought-after background vocalist Valerie Pinkston-Mayo and former Earth, Wind & Fire saxophonist Scott Mayo and had his own show last night too). I also checked out the latest addition to Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood roster: the group Secret Night Gang, with its great lead singer Kemani Anderson, was badly mixed though and you could hardly hear the vocals on the outside stage of Congo Square.
It was not possible to get into the Amazon hall for the show of Dianne Reeves – I had been one hour early for the Simone tribute show in order to get a seat, but if you arrive 30 minutes before a show? No chance. So I opted for Thundercat whose incredibly funky set made me wonder how three people could make such a, pardon the phrase, thunderous noise.
Make sure to mark your calendars for July 7-9, 2023, for the next edition.