Aug. 20--The great Barbara Morrison is back in town. Hallelujah!
Born in Ypsilanti, Morrison, a singer of uncommon spirit and expression, has been based in Los Angeles since the 1970s. She has built an impressive career and discography, and performed with a starry cast of leading jazz musicians, including Jimmy Smith, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Junior Mance and Houston Person. Yet she also has always been underrated, working steadily without benefit of much press attention or the kind of wider acclaim that has come to others. Now in her mid-60s, she has had a tough go of it in recent years, losing a leg to diabetes. Yet she sounds as strong as ever on her newly issued "I Love You, Yes I Do" (Savant).
Morrison works at the intersection of jazz and blues -- territory once traversed by Dinah Washington, with whom Morrison shares a queenly presence, sassy diction and voice that's both stouthearted and laser-like. Depending on her material, rhythm section or in-moment inspiration, Morrison will lean one way or the other. She can swing her way through a standard, streamlining her phrasing into a smooth delivery alive with tasteful improvisation. But when she gets excited, she might slide into raucous blues elocutions.
Morrison is especially effective on down-and-dirty ballads like "Please Send Me Someone to Love" or "Save Your Love for Me," where gospel shouts and flourishes and raspy wails will take you straight to church. For this one-nighter, she'll be joined by pianist Tad Weed, bassist Kurt Krahnke and drummer Sean Dobbins, a trio of infinite flexibility and musicianship that will follow her wherever she wants to go.
8 p.m. Saturday, Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor. Reservations, 734-769-2999. www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com. $15, $5 students.
As the real estate folks say: Location, location, location. The latest entry on the summer jazz festival menu in Michigan promises a beautiful setting on Lake Michigan at Heritage Landing in Muskegon. Alexander Zonjic'sShoreline Jazz Festival, spearheaded by metro Detroit's popular flutist, makes its debut Saturday and Sunday with the avowed aim to draw audiences from a wide arc within a few hours' drive. Zonjic is headlining Sunday night in a pairing with Kenny G.
The populist lineup is dominated by instrumental pop, R&B and fusion styles with some vocalists in the mix too -- Boney James, Ruben Studdard and Lalah Hathaway are among the headliners. Fans of acoustic mainstream jazz won't find anything to excite them, but our moment in the sun comes next weekend with the Detroit Jazz Festival in downtown Detroit. Meanwhile, metro Detroiters looking for a weekend getaway with a smooth back-beat soundtrack have a new option to consider.
This music runs 1-9 p.m. each day. Heritage Landing, Muskegon. Details, map and more: www.shorelinejazzfestival.com. One-day passes are $25 (bring your own lawn chair). Preferred seating, $50 (chairs provided).
Here's the lineup:
1 p.m.Lin Rountree
2 Urban Jazz Coalition
4 Tim Bowman
5:45 Maysa, Nick Colionne & Brian Simpson
7:30 Boney James
1 p.m.Phil Denny & Oli Silk
2:30 Michael Manson
4 Jeff Lorber Fusion with Eric Marienthal & Jimmy Haslip
5:45 Lalah Hathaway & Ruben Studdard
7:30 Alexander Zonjic with special guest Kenny G
Contact Mark Stryker: 313-222-6459. firstname.lastname@example.org
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