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Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents "Celebrating Lady Day", with Vocalists Andy Bey, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, and Molly Johnson
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Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents "Celebrating Lady Day", with Vocalists Andy Bey, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, and Molly Johnson

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Jazz at Lincoln Center
Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director
Greg Scholl, Executive Director


Celebrating Lady Day

Peter Martin, Music Director, Piano
Melissa Aldana, Saxophone
Robert Hurst, Bass
Ulysses Owens. Jr., Drums

Andy Bey, Vocals, Piano
Sarah Elizabeth Charles, Vocals
Molly Johnson, Vocals

Frederick P. Rose Hall
Rose Theater
Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center

Zooey T. Jones, Director, Public Relations
Danielle Bias, Asst. Director, Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 11, 2015

Tonight’s Jazz at Lincoln Center tribute to Billie Holiday, called “Celebrating Lady Day”, scheduled for Ms. Holiday’s birthday centennial, sparkled with soul. Three vocalists, Molly Johnson, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, and Andy Bey (who also played piano for his spotlight turns), entertained the sold-out crowd with Billie Holiday era songs, like “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “God Bless the Child”. Peter Martin, Music Director, was on piano, with Melissa Aldana on saxophone, Robert Hurst on bass, and Ulysses Owens, Jr. on drums. Ms. Aldana, a new face and sound to most in the audience, hails from the Chilean jazz community. The program was presented with no intermission, and Mr. Martin created a mesmerizing ambiance with poignancy, wit, sadness, and celebration, as the evening progressed.

Molly Johnson, who began her career, as a teen, in Toronto in Porgy and Bess, opened with “Lady Sings the Blues”, with deep vocal intonation and sensational personality. She drew the audience in quickly, with an informal, warm manner. The band riffed, in melancholy interludes, on piano, sax, drums, and bass. “How Deep Is the Ocean”, another Billie Holiday favorite, revisited by Ms. Johnson, was sung with attitude and humor. Later in the show, Ms. Johnson’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” brought tears to the eyes of most, with lyrical imagery of racial-based murders in the Deep South. When Ms. Johnson sang this song, she truly personified Ms. Holiday in gesture, tone, and key. Also, later in the show, Ms. Johnson performed “Love for Sale”, once again embodying Ms. Holiday’s memory in vocal style and nuance. Throughout the concert, Mr. Martin and the band offered sumptuous solos and tantalizing tempos, always in sync with the lyrical mood.

Tonight’s second vocalist, who frequently returned to the stage, like Ms. Johnson, was Sarah Elizabeth Charles, whose new recording, “Inner Dialogue”, was recently reviewed on these pages. Ms. Charles’ solos, throughout the program, were “But Beautiful”, “You Don't Know What Love Is”, “The Very Thought of You”, “Don't Explain”, and “I'll Be Seeing You”. Ms. Charles’ vocal intonation is sublime, sensual, and totally original. This is a rising star in the jazz community that should be seen and heard often. Ms. Charles told me, after the show, that “she was using an effects pedal on her vocals that allowed her to control her sonic pallet from the stage. She specifically subtly utilized the reverb, delay, and dimension effects on her arrangements of tunes, paying tribute to Billie.” This is Ms. Charles’ description of sound enhancement that deepened tonight’s listening experience. On her recording, she used an overlay of her own vocals in blissful harmonies. Ms. Charles, in her own stunning spotlight, chose not to morph into Ms. Holiday’s tone and affect, but rather to offer her own interpretation of Mr. Holiday’s songs and those of the era. I noticed that Ms. Charles invited generous percussive riffs within her ebullient performance.

The third vocalist was the seasoned and sensational, Andy Bey, who sang at the piano, accompanying himself in “I Can't Get Started”, “I've Got a Right To Sing the Blues”, “Good Morning Heartache”, and “Love For Sale”. Ms. Bey sings in a languorous, richly toned manner, totally unrushed. His intimate asides to the audience were a moving tribute to the estimable Lady Day. In “Good Morning Heartache”, Mr. Bey’s fans made knowing comments, echoing like sentiments, throughout the song. There was also one totally instrumental work, as well as a band and vocal number, “God Bless the Child”, in which each vocalist took a passage, before they joined in transporting harmonies, in homage to Ms. Holiday. I was thrilled to have chosen this concert, among so many April 2015 Billie Holiday tributes. Kudos to all, and kudos to Billie Holiday.

Sarah Elizabeth Charles Sings with the Band
Peter Martin, Music Director, on Piano
Melissa Aldana on Saxophone
Robert Hurst on Bass
Ulysses Owens, Jr., on Drums
Courtesy of Lawrence Sumulong

Molly Johnson on Vocals
Courtesy of Lawrence Sumulong

Robert Hurst on Bass
Melissa Aldana on Saxophone
Courtesy of Lawrence Sumulong

Andy Bey on Vocals and Piano
Courtesy of Lawrence Sumulong

Sara Charles and Peter Martin
Courtesy of Lawrence Sumulong

Molly Johnson, Andy Bey, Sarah Elizabeth Charles
Join the Band for a Full Ensemble Finale
Courtesy of Lawrence Sumulong

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at