The KC Jazz Club featured Nnenna Freelon in their cabaret style venue last night. Those of you who attended the Thelonius Monk Competion in September, also at The Kennedy Center, surely recall her stunning vocal style, as well as her bodacious charm. She was accompanied by bassist John Brown, drummer Adonis Rose, and pianist Brandon McCune.
Encouraging the audience to imagine yourself at the “Cotton Club,” the performance started out with a tribute to Lena Horne, including some of her popular works which reminder her of Lena’s beauty, both inside and outside. Apparently Ms. Freelon remembers her as an icon of feminine beauty from her youth, despite having been chastised, “You’re no Lena Horne.” It’s obvious she is over that insinuation as she performed a ‘hip’ rendition of “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. (You can hear that rendition here). And she closed the first set with a Lena Horne classic, “Stormy Weather.”
Freelon also paid tribute to the contribution of her close friend Billy Strayhorn to Lena’s musical development as well as her devotion, like his, to the Civil Rights movement, which hindered her Hollywood opportunities. She also included some songs inspired by the season and her new Christmas CD. She began with her own interpretations of “Jingle Bells” – called “Swing Jingle Bells” and snappy renditions of “Silent Night,” and a “Spiritual Medley.” She added a gorgeously smooth “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Freelon also was very funny in a brief reprise of songs she eliminated from her song list that she said were ‘too sad’ – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
It was a wonderful jazzy holiday present performed by a great singer.
Listen to sound clips of songs from Nnenna Freelon’s Christmas CD and purchase it here.
Nnenna Freelon’s website.