Tron Theatre, 21st June 2009.
Part of the Glasgow International Jazz Festival 2009
The announcement came over the PA: “Please welcome Mobo Award winning saxophonist, Miss YolanDa Brown”. But instead of Miss Brown, a bloke walked on stage and started playing drums. A minute or so later, on came the (male) bass guitar player. Then the keyboard player and the guitarist. Finally, wearing a gold dress and gold stilleto heels, on came YolanDa herself.
This was definitely jazz as entertainment rather than jazz as art. Brown had her band positioned round the back of the stage, leaving her free to strut around the remaining space, despite wearing heels which made shaking a tail feather look difficult if not downright dangerous. She did a costume change at the interval, coming back out in a puffball skirt and slightly more sensible shoes.
But what about the music? Well, she played a mixture of standards and originals, in a style which fused R’n’B (in the current sense) with jazz. As an attempt to renunite jazz with black popular dance music it was less radical than Courtney Pine’s efforts: more like Grover Washington Jr. or Stanley Turrentine. Her playing – mainly tenor, but some soprano – was pretty decent, but she rarely strayed too far from the tune. There were a few inspired moments, such as a Coltrane-over-reggae passage in My Funny Valentine, but also a few naff ones, such as a version of Round Midnight that milked the tune for sentimentality while saying nothing new. Best of the originals was the African-tinged “Festac Town”. The band were very good (I thought they were more impressive than YolanDa Brown herself), but I didn’t manage to catch their names.
Overall, an enjoyable enough concert, but a bit MOR for my tastes. It’s reviewed in the Herald here: Herald review
YolanDa Brown’s own web site is at www.yolandabrown.co.uk