Christie Dashiell and her band graced the stage at the Mansion at Strathmore on Wednesday night with a seven-song set. Her skills as a jazz vocalist and composer brought joy throughout the performance, starting with the very first number, “Up Jumped Spring.” In this original composition, Dashiell’s velvety voice soared above her band. The performance of “Up Jumped Spring” set the tone for what was to come, because it particularly suited Dashiell as her voice is high and clear and she tends to avoid the low smokey tone often heard in the jazz repertoire. Another strong point was that the band played as “backup,” allowing her voice to take center stage.
Coming through in breaks, however, was the astounding artistry of pianist Allyn Johnson. As an artist, Johnson has won numerous awards and wears many hats, including the Director of the Jazz Studies Program at the University of the District of Columbia.
In her rendition of “East of the Sun,” Dashiell paired with Elijah Balbed in many long runs of scat. Though Balbed started out a little tenuously, he quickly found his footing. “East of the Sun” was composed by Princeton undergrad, Brooks Bowman, for the 1934 production of Stags at Bay presented by the Princeton Triangle Club. Despite its obscure beginning, “East of the Sun” has been reinterpreted by many jazz greats including Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. There were times when I wish she would have exhibited more coloring like in her rendition of “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and other times when I wished the band had not played so loud as they did during her performances of “Dynasty,” and “Thinking of You,” because it was difficult to hear her.
Each member of Christie’s band is a hot commodity in the current jazz scene. One of the strong points of her interpretation is the space that was left for each band member to strut his stuff. Unfortunately, this cut short Dashiell’s participation. Christian Dasheill worked his bass and was well-matched by his brother CV Dashiell III on percussion. Pianist Allyn Johnson could have taken over the show but exhibited gracious restraint.
Two delightful songs ended the evening’s scheduled set. “Pieces of Me,” an Ashlee Simpson original, was reinterpreted for a jazz ensemble by Dashiell while she was a graduate student. Another spin was taken by Dashiell in her interpretation of the Bossa Nova “Flor De Lis,” originally written by Briazilian composer Djavan.
Dashiell’s encore, “I Can’t Get Started,” another original, showed great promise. She indicated that it was a foreshadowing of what would be special during her January 29, 2014 performance. At that time, she will also debut an original written while an Artist in Residence (AIR) at The Music Center at Strathmore.
Strathmore’s Artist in Residence (AIR) program is designed to foster young artists as they make a transition from amateur to professional musician. Ms. Dashiell appeared to be the perfect candidate. A multiple award winner, she has appeared on albums including those by John Blake and The Jolley Brothers. Dashiell has been seen in concert with Esperanza Spalding, Smokey Robinson, Fred Hammond, Geri Allan and Allan Harris. She also appeared in season three of The Sing-Off with Howard University’s Afro Funk which made it to the finals. Her AIR was sponsored by John and Effie Macklin, highlighting the importance of community support of the arts.
Running Time: One hour fifteen minutes, including one encore.
Christie Dashiell performed on January 15, 2014 at The Mansion at Strathmore – 10701 Rockville Pike, in North Bethesda, MD. She will perform again on January 29, 2014 at The Mansion at Strathmore at 7:30 and will provide a free educational workshop, A Jazz Journey, at The Mansion at Strathmore on January 22, 2014 at 7:30 on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. Tickets may be purchased at the Strathmore Ticket Office: (301) 581-5100, or online.