Freda Payne

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Freda Payne

Yoshi’s, Oakland, CA, May 22, 2015

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Freda-Payne-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Freda Payne’s been performing since age 14 and although best known for her 1970 R&B hit “Band of Gold,” she is foremost a jazzy pop singer. Highlighting selections from her most recent studio solo CD, Come Back to Me Love, her first in quite some time, Payne mixed it up with ballads, blues and jazz. “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Cole Porter) and “Sweet Georgia Brown” (Music: Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard; Lyrics: Kenneth Casey) swing nicely, while “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water,” made popular by Lou Rawls, brings out the rocking blues.

Two nice ballads were offered back to back: “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” with lyrics by Fran Landesman set to music by Tommy Wolf, and a lovely rendition of “Midnight Sun.” The Lionel Hampton/Sonny Burke instrumental with lyrics by Johnny Mercer harkens back to the sound of Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, two of Payne’s big influences. Later in the set, Payne would sing “Save Your Love for Me,” popularized by Wilson, and then end her set with her signature “Band of Gold.” Payne had a few pitch problems throughout the set, but her voice is still silky and vibrant.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.