Theatre Raleigh has been bringing quality theater to downtown Raleigh for several years with its Hot Summer Nights series. On Saturday, July 9th, they launched their new Cool Summer Evenings music series with Cool Summer Evenings: Yolanda Rabun.
Theatre Raleigh’s website states:
“Cool Summer Evenings is the side dish to Theatre Raleigh‘s main course, Hot Summer Nights. These concerts will give an opportunity for local artists to showcase themselves.”
Last Saturday night, Yolanda Rabun was one such delicious side dish served up to a sold-out house in the intimate setting of the Kennedy Theatre in Raleigh’s Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
Take the throb of a bass and the wail of a sax. Add the tickling of two sets of keyboards. Sprinkle in some guitar and drums. Blend in the harmonies of three backup vocals. Then add the soulful, smooth-as-velvet voice of Yolanda Rabun, and you have a feast fit for royalty.We were treated to some original works as well as her renditions several songs made popular by jazz greats and a few “oldies” hits from the 1970s.
The band consisted of Brian Miller on saxophones and flute, Joel Holloway and Branden Williams on keyboards, Thurman Woods on bass, Kevin Wilson on guitar, and Quentin Whidbee on drums. Felicia Wright joins Holloway and Woods on background vocals. Yolanda Rabun shared the stage generously. As early as the second song of the evening, there were brief solos by Branden Williams on keyboard and Brian Miller on sax, both worthy of the applause they received.
One song, “Love Is Here to Stay,” showcased what we can only refer to as a “conversation” between Rabun’s vocals and Miller’s tenor sax. Upon reflection, we realized that the entire evening was laced with subtle instances of such “dialogue.” Another song, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” featured Joel Holloway on lead vocals.
And then there is a tight and comfortable chemistry among the performers. Rabun and Thurman Woods (a.k.a. “Peanut”) carry on a bit of good-natured banter between songs throughout the evening. Rabun sings directly to fellow performers at times. And there is an interesting twist involving Wright when the band is introduced during the final number.
But Yolanda Rabun’s concert isn’t just the music, and the event is not confined to the stage. With her commanding stage-presence and charisma, she makes every audience member feel as though they are an intimate part of the show. And she is also part “motivational speaker.”
She tells about “not giving up,” that each of us is blessed with a gift, and that we need to follow our dreams and share our gifts. But she also reminds us that now-and-then we need to “take the day off” and live! Naturally, these conversations lead in to thematically-connected songs.
And there was an added bonus on Saturday night: we got to meet Yolanda Rabun’s mother and her husband when they joined her on the stage.
If every Yolanda Rabun concert is as first-rate as Saturday’s Cool Summer Evening, every lover of music and/or theater should plan on catching at least one. And if every Cool Summer Evening is as top-notch as the one spent with Yolanda Rabun, the rest of the season should be considered as good bets for an evening’s entertainment.
COOL SUMMER EVENINGS: YOLANDA RABUN (Theatre Raleigh, July 9 at the Kennedy Theatre in Raleigh, NC).
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.
Yolanda Rabun (Raleigh, NC jazz vocalist): http://www.yolandarabun.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/yolanda.rabun (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/YolandaRabun (Twitter page).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.