Friday, June 17, 2011

Carmen Lundy Quartet at Yoshi's June 17, 2011

Even though it had been a log day, I knew if I could get there Ms. Lundy would be all the cure I needed, the cure, the meditation, the sunshine and raining affirmations her songs embodied. Love, yes love, even after heartache.

The club was not as full as the last time I saw her live. It was the week John Hicks passed and her brother, Curtis was on bass. It was a transcendental set--everyone's mind on the dearly departed soul.

In the ensuing years I've kept up with Lundy . . . her various albums and had an opportunity to speak to her when her Solomente (2009) was released. Visit (June 21, 2009). On this album, Lundy is pictured playing both guitar and drums. However, at Yoshi's she left the literal instrumentation to her guys: the incomparable pianist Anthony Wonsey, phenomenal bassist and new comer to the ensemble, this his first gig, Corcoran Holt, and the prodigy of the group, as in youth, Jamison Ross, 23. Hailing from Florida, the black Indian, Seminole nation, was unspeakably subtle on the traps, never overstated or overbearing, a witty, supportive presence in the ensemble from start to finish.

He and Holt, physically close in proximity, shared a certain camaraderie, Wonsey all alone across the span of 88 keys years yards of wood and octaves--empty spaces waiting to be filled. Despite the physical distance, one could see Ross's face above the cymbals talking to Wonsey, listening intently to the musician whose command of his instrument made us realize that we were in the presence of greatness.

Black magic is certainly real when Carmen Lundy has the wand. "Tell me," she asks her audience, "How many of you are just getting to know this music today?" Unperturbed that half the audience were among the uninitiated, she stayed in the water--the baptism falling from her lips with each selection . . . just one more reason why CD sales were brisk after the band returned for an encore sing-a-long.

She takes us on a safari with Wild Child, then shifts into a finger popping "Lucky Me--I'm in Love Again." I hear patrons calling out Ray Brown's name as Holt solos on bass matching Lundy's speaking in tongues-- scatting. Here Ross gives us a taste of his percussive power, a foreshadowing of what's to come. One hears echoes in the audience as he performs --table top drummers. The two women we meet later after the set are good--who would have known the syncopation was unplanned--just sisters feeling the music.

When black magic is in the room, no one leaves uninitiated--sort of like a contact high (smile).

Lundy tells us her next song is a first composition on guitar. This is a song she and the guys love, she says, as she asks us to indulge her--

"Tonight stars are brightly shining when love surrounds us. . . ."

Wearing a lovely waist length lavender jacket, ruffles along the neck line, stylish and functional, the artist had on these cool black slacks with ruffled pleats, her eye shadow lavender as well, her long lashes coquettish without pretension. Cute short red curly cut favored and framed her pretty heart shaped face.

Singing about love and loss and forgiveness, most of the songs were originals, with perhaps one, one might call a standard" Lundy says of a song from a film she hadn't seen. The song, "A Nightingale Sang In Barkley Square" is unrecognizable the way she arranges it and with it begins a medley of songs on the soon to be released recording taped she mentioned back stage in less than 48 hours. I think they went in at 12 noon, the call at 10 AM and were through at 6 PM the next day--it's like that--star dust and such celestial adornment(on new CD). Listen to The teen idol Bobby Darin sings it here

The songs were about love and relationships, between lovers and friends, even strangers.

She sang: "My one and only love is a dream come true . . . I'm your neighbor. Let go of your paranoia and fear. Where did it gone . . . how did we ever lose the feeling?"

Ross's solo on drums is a meditation that opens the next song. It was like the Niyabinghi rhythm, but then it wasn't. Moving . . . it was hard to place him.

My friend whispered Betty Carter while listening to Lundy--her strength, her command, her range--Carter's performances legendary in their physicality. It was on this song Ross introduced that Lundy's vocal reach was operatic.

Her repertoire varied in style from ballads to stunning forays into areas in the celestial hemisphere I hadn't traversed lately--Lundy's vocal range as wide and as deep as the ocean-- ocean blues and foamy seas.

One of my favorite pieces was a song dedicated to her mother--"Rivers so Wide and Deep . . . walking through the wind alone, I stumble-- Please hold out your hand. I need your strength to go on. Show me a sign. Send me your love--Keep me alive."

Her song reminded me of the Billy Joel song, "River of Dreams," but my notes don't match his song.

It is here that Wonsey gave one of his many stellar solo performances and Ross his first extended solo. I think the song is called "One More River to Cross" on This is Carmen Lundy. Listen to it here:

Nope, this isn't the song she sang (smile). I don't know its name, but the research was fun (smile). This is what happens when one isn't an expert and I don't ask for a set list. I'll see if I can get answers to my questions tonight (smile). Visit

I like the Joel piece though, so I am going to include it here.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To the river so deep
I must be lookin' for something
Something sacred i lost
But the river is wide
And it's too hard to cross
even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and stand on the shore
I try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find what I've been looking for
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep
I've been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I'd never lose
Something somebody stole
I don't know why I go walking at night
But now I'm tired and I don't want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn't take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is I've been looking for
(Three beat Pause)
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To the river so deep
I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night (break)

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I've never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That is runnin' through the promised land (Long Five beat Pause)

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We're all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

Lundy's voice is a physical presence, the music coming from her pores--as in water spirit soul . . . bending from the waist, crouching and balled up like an embryo holding onto what she knows as she tumbles into the light, Lundy would then reach up into the heavens, arms outstretched in supplication, in reverence, in thanksgiving --the music a gift. . . .

In all of this one could feel the music. She is the music. We are the music. Is this philosophical or transcendent or what?! But it's not that deep until you look back at the shore and see how far you are from where you were when you stepped into her arms -- the melody all the trust you need despite the current and the occasional waves.

Magic. It's contagious and addictive.

The encore, "Come Home," is a song about memories of family and siblings, the happy memories we recall when the others fade from view. Scatting as she dipped into that treasure trove that is --magic, black . . .magic, Carmen Lundy magic --the finale was a perfect ending to a perfect evening. Imagine the disappointment of people counting on a second set arriving at 10 p.m. I hadn't known the show was almost canceled until I arrived and went back stage.

Ticket sales were slow. Friday night,tonight, Lundy has to sell the club out. I am sure word will get around that the queen is back and perhaps if we treat her well, she'll come back our way soon.


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