Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/cellist Shana Tucker didn’t have to travel very far on Saturday, Sept. 28th, to play at the vintage theater in the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in Roxboro, NC. “Wow, it’s nice to drive up 501 from Durham through these pretty farms and past horses and cows,” she told the audience between songs. “Especially since my commute from Red Rocks to Las Vegas, where I have an ongoing gig for the Kà Cirque du Soleil show, is downright boring.” The audience not only applauded her compliment but also called out that she could come up anytime.
Tucker, who’s been called a worthy successor to Joni Mitchell (whose songs and manner of singing are difficult to imitate), instantly revealed her sense of humor when she started the show and couldn’t get the microphone to cooperate. Singing her need for some help to the stage hands, she worked out the problem and broke the ice with the audience simultaneously. What came after that wasn’t funny at all. It was phenomenal.
Shana Tucker’s first song almost sounded like she and her quintet were tuning their instruments, but as soon all the sounds wove together into something magical, a visit to another world, a fantasy of notes and harmonies that highlights the blend Tucker herself embodies. The song, “SHiNE,” is the title track of Tucker’s new CD, heralded as “impressive” and “lush.” [As an aside, the CD is the result of an Indiegogo campaign that raised enough funds to pay for the musicians who accompanied Tucker, as well as the costs of recording in a professional studio. Having bought the CD on the way out of the theater, I can say it was well worth the effort.]
During her patter, Tucker describes what she does as “chamber soul,” a bit of jazz, a bit of pop and some other stuff. What she is, though, is a complex musician who offers not only a world-class voice that rivals that of Cleo Laine or Diana Krall, but also is an accomplished cellist formally trained at Howard University and able to compete with the musicians who make their living simply by playing one instrument. But we’re not done yet. Add to that list of talents the ability to play the guitar in a rich jazzy-bluesy manner, and you have an extraordinary entertainer. And this entertainer is also one helluva songwriter. Her compositions tell a story, some that are simple and humorous (like “Fast Lane,” a story about a woman who’s driving in the fast lane while talking on her cell phone) while others are richly poignant (like “Why Do I Cry?” a song inspired by a poem written by Clarissa Scott Delany, a poet writing during the Harlem Renaissance).
As she promised in her opening intro, Tucker delivered an upbeat and complicated medley of pop/jazz tunes that included “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Norwegian Wood,” and “Summertime.” Moving from one song to the other seamlessly and combining her mezzo soprano riffs with her robust cello, Tucker reveals an instinct for music that blurs the lines between the puny pop tunes that hit the charts and the needlessly complicated discordant jazz that drives a wedge between blue-blood-jazz listeners and those who want to be able to bob their heads with the music. She carves out a space for herself that is intrinsically hers and no one else’s.
In her song “Just A Moment,” written during a transition in her life when she had taken almost 10 years off from singing and writing to spend time with her son and husband, she sings about finding enough space to remember who you are without feeling guilty. The lyrics speak of a subject all too familiar to female artists, a topic Virginia Woolf dealt with so eloquently in “A Room of One’s Own” so many years ago. Tucker brings the topic to contemporary ears and any woman who has struggled with trying to maintain a creative career while dealing with the responsibilities of a family will connect with the powerful lyrics.
To close the evening, Tucker and her quartet (Eric Hirsch, piano; Peter Kimosh, bass; Stephen Coffman, drums; and Brett Brev, percussion), played “Just Go,” a song released this summer with North Carolina in mind. As noted before, she spends a lot of time in Vegas these days and shared that it’s hard to write there, yet this song was recorded in Durham and Vegas, reflecting the theme of the song: “going a thousand miles a minute in a thousand different directions.”
Having brought the audience into her world and taken them on her own musical journey, Shana Tucker closed the evening with a warm invitation to meet her in the lobby so she could say hello to the people who had enjoyed her performance that evening. That personal connection might not be an option for too much longer because once “SHiNE” reaches the general populace beyond North Carolina and Las Vegas, Tucker could compete with the likes of Jane Monheit and Norah Jones.
SHANA TUCKER: CHAMBERSOUL CELLO & SONGS
Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, Sept. 28 in the Kirby Theater in Roxboro, NC.
SHOW: http://www.personcounty.net/index.aspx?page=191&recordid=2121 and https://www.facebook.com/events/155934914592639/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1DE8jy5huNE.
2013-14 SEASON: http://www.personcounty.net/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=2486.
PRESENTER: http://www.personcounty.net/index.aspx?page=278 and https://www.facebook.com/KirbyCulturalArtsComplex.
Shana Tucker: ChamberSoul Cello & Songs (singer/songwriter/cellist): http://www.shanatucker.com/ (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/shanatucker.chambersoul (Facebook page) and (Wikipedia). [RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.