Tonight started off with a sweet ka-boom as we followed the notes Tuscan beauty Roberta Gambarini squeezed out into oblivion. The queen of fade and control, Gambarini and her trio peppered the set with Argentinian, American, and Italian classics elegantly and effortlessly.
Dressed like a leopard print mermaid, Gambarini affected the tones of saxophone and trumpet both quasi-literally when actual words bubbled up in her zippy scat and literally when she imitated a trumpet. Oh, and let's not forget her from-the-floor-to-heaven's-door vocal range.
They tell me Janelle Monae is on the rise and it's easy to say why. The set was sci-fi cool with a nod to the Mothership as Monae rolled out in a straitjacket and bandages like Hannibal Lecter and Dr. Frankenstein creation. The energy was straight-up nuclear and loud. She came out on 11 and stayed there.
The crowd was on its feet from the start and stayed, but Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was down the street so I couldn't stay. I hidey-hauled my ass down to the happening scene.
What started out as a more tongue-in-cheek swing band has become a slick outfit and easily one of the best jumpin' jive bands alive. Yup, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy killed it on the Chestnut Street stage for thousands of would-be lindy-hoppers. The thunder of the band's drummer was contained by a giant plastic sneeze guard. Other than that, the band looked decadently vintage ... and sounded that way too with an expertly brash blast of timeless brass.
Nikki Hill had 'em lined up down the street all the way to East Avenue. Abilene's later show was just as packed with a howlingly enthusiastic crowd, brought to its feet by Hill's feline purr and growl. Singing like Barbara Pittman beneath a pile of bouffant hair, Hill had the Abilene crowd on it's feet and in the aisles -- so did Monae except she demanded it, Hills fans did it on their own. Just sayin'. And while all eyes are on Hill and her statuesque curves, a few of us eyeballed her hubby, Matt Hill on the guitar. The spirit of Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Tarheel Slim was in the tent that night. Have mercy... onto day 2.