Carmen Lundy at the Iridium Jazz Club

This stellar band consisted of: Carmen Lundy on vocals; Robert Glasper, piano and Fender Rhodes; Curtis Lundy (Carmen's brother), acoustic bass; Kenny Davis, electric bass; Jason Brown, drums; Mayra Casales, percussion, and Lage Lund, guitar. They were on tour in February to celebrate the recent release of Carmen's new all-original double-CD, called Jazz and the New Songbook: Live at the Madrid.

 On her CD Live at the Madrid, the musicians were: Glasper again on piano, along with two other pianists, Billy Childs and David Roilstein; Curtis and Davis again on bass together with Nathan East and Phil Upchurch; Victor Lewis and Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums; Mayra once more on percussion.  There were horn players Steve Turre, on trombone; Bobby Watson on alto; Mark Shim on tenor and soprano, also Krystal Davis Williams sang background vocals.  To top it off, the LA String Quartet was added on four cuts!

At the live performance, the band had very unusual instrumentation ¦ two bass players, two percussion and piano and guitar!  Robert Glasper stood out as the strongest soloist, and was also the musical director, controlling the dynamics of the group. 

The Iridium wasn't packed for Carmen Lundy's opening night, but it was about full, with Jazz lovers, tourists, musicians and celebrities. The first tune started as a vamp to bring Carmen onstage. Dressed in an ornate white top with angular patterns, black pants and a gold belt, Ms. Lundy looked stunning.  She moved around on the stage as though she owned it, and felt her emotions deeply, as implied by her larger-than-life facial expressions and gestures.  The name of the tune was "The Language of Love," where Carmen intoned the name of God in many languages, holding a really long note at the end.  It was mesmerizing.

"A Walking Code Blue" was next.  This sobering tune is almost scary, Carmen makes it so real.  One line of the lyrics is, "She likes cocaine ¦ she plays too long in the fast lane."  Carmen made her eyes big and vacant-looking, and swayed along with the music.

After playing the head on Fender Rhodes to get a cool groove going with Kenny on electric bass, Robert took a bluesy and funky solo on acoustic piano.  The young guitarist was the next soloist.  Lage got a great tone out of the guitar, coupled with nice ideas.  At this point the electric bassist dropped out, while Curtis kept on walking on his bass, making the overall Jazz effect very potent.

"One More River to Cross," featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes and the opening cut of Carmen's CD, "In Love Again" are her most powerful songs.  "In Love Again" was great to experience live, because she incorporated movement that went along with the singing.  Carmen showed great control of the mix between her high and low voice, and demonstrated her range, by going way up and hitting a fantastic high note.  She scatted a chorus before giving it over to the guitar for a solo.

Carmen made breathing sounds, Mayra played chimes, and Jason weaved a wave-like percussion sound that put you on the beach: this is what the audience experienced on "One More River to Cross."  Carmen used blissful dynamics, and you could hear a pin drop even though there were kids in the audience, waiters, etc.

Robert played a beautiful piano accompaniment on the ballad, "Forgive Me for Loving You, Too."  On "Now That He's Gone," Carmen used her lowest range, starting with sensual guttural tones, and then belting it out.  One senses her expertise in dealing with bands- she is a well-schooled musician, and it shows.

Dedicated to the memory of Ray Burretto (who was a close friend), was the song, "Heart of Gold." Altogether it was a very moving experience to hear Carmen Lundy sing.

 by Lucy Galliher


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