by Larry Kerchner (Guest Reviewer)


Last night at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the hearts of 130 listeners were warmed, ironically by a cool southerly breeze in the person of jazz singer extraordinaire, Audrey Shakir. The Atlanta-based chanteuse, who has worked with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (in which her son, Walter Blanding, plays saxophone), blew into town for a two-night appearance at Dizzy’s with her show, An Evening with Audrey Shakir. The upscale jazz venue, overlooking venerable Columbus Circle (who remembers the Coliseum?), offers a spectacular view of the posh Central Park South neighborhood, a view second only to that of The Appel Room in the same complex.


Ms. Shakir was accompanied by Musical Director/pianist Ted Howe, bassist Tom Kennedy, and drummer Matt Slocum – a combined Atlanta-New York City trio that dissected musical nuance like a team of skilled surgeons, and swung like they’d been together for years. Even Howe’s 5/4 to 4/4 to 3/4 to 7/8 and-back-again chart on Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” didn’t phase these A-list players, nor Ms. Shakir, who scatted in this and virtually every tune in the set. Sounds like overkill, right? Wrong! What may be too much in another singer’s hands was not only not too much – it wasn’t nearly enough! She’s THAT good — the best bebop scat singer I’ve ever heard, ranking with Ella, Sarah and other jazz vocal royalty. Her scales were technically correct for the chord changes, her note choices were hip, her phrasing was Bird-perfect, and her musical soul exuded honesty and a total respect for the art form.


From the opening tune, “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” it was obvious we were in for a treat. Next came “Birks Works,” a 100% scat tune, which was 100% spot on. Most, but not all of the remainder of the set was comprised of standards like “You Go To My Head,” “Sunny Side Of the Street,” “Star Eyes,” the aforementioned “Cherokee,” and “Take the ‘A’ Train,” all of which were handled with aplomb by all four musicians on the stage (Audrey is one of them).


In Howe’s blazingly fast solos, each note always finds its way to just the right spot at just the right time, and Kennedy’s bass solos are as inventive and tasty as they are in tune (a big deal for me), even when he plays high on his G string (no jokes please). Slocum mimicking Ms. Shakir’s riffs on his kit as they traded eights was a “moment,” too. One of many.


A special highlight was when Ms. Shakir asked the audience to “listen with your eyes,” as she stepped to the side and gracefully signed the lyrics to “My Valentine” in total silence, after which she returned to the mic and sang it, signing again as she sang so we could understand what we had just witnessed with rapt attention. It was as moving a lesson as you’ll find in the art of connecting with an audience.


Audrey Shakir is truly a delight and a scatting force of nature.  www.jalc.org 


*Larry Kerchner is a songwriter-musician extraordinaire