Ladies Sing the Blues: A Billie Holiday Centennial Birthday Celebration

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Ladies Sing the Blues:
A Billie Holiday Centennial Birthday Celebration

Davenport’s, Chicago, IL, April 6, 2015

Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes

Ladies-Sing-the-Blues-Billie-Holiday-Cabaret-Scenes-Magaine_212Producer/director Daryl Nitz brought together a bevy of Chicago’s best jazz divas—Amy Armstrong, Kimberly Gordon, Sophie Grimm, Lynne Jordan, Frieda Lee, Tecora Rogers, Jeannie Tanner—to salute Lady Day on her hundredth birthday. While the lengthy show was continuously excellent, certain highlights merit mention. Among these were Jordan’s “Strange Fruit,” made even more powerful by the story she shared of her grandfather’s hiding in a tree stump to avoid a lynch mob.

 Younger than most of the other vocalists by a generation or more, Grimm brought deep, thoughtful interpretation to “Good Morning Heartache” and “Crazy He Calls Me.

” Armstrong, generally regarded around Chicago as a comedy performer, brought heart and depth to “Don’t Explain,” as did Gordon with a well-sung “Gloomy Sunday.” Johnny Rogers provided excellent musical direction, adjusting seamlessly to each singer (no doubt influenced by Lady Day herself) in his large, talented cast.

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To no one’s surprise, the closing number was “God Bless the Child” with the cast “conducted” by radiant octogenarian Lee who, earlier in the show, had us toe-tapping to “A Fine Romance” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.

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Carla Gordon

Carla Gordon is a singer/songwriter, director, and producer. The Chicago Tribune cited her among “Chicago’s most accomplished cabaret performers….a major player in Chicago cabaret.” Reviewer Pam Peterson called her “Honey-voiced wisecracker!” Ageless Magazine called her performance as Sophie tucker, “A gem!” Gordon writes custom material for singers nationwide. Her flagship show, "Blacklisted," featuring songs made famous by artists blacklisted under McCarthyism, has toured to critical acclaim. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cabaret Professionals and on the Advisory Board of the Skokie Theater. Her songs air on WFMT’s Midnight Special and are being performed performed by cabaret artists nationwide.