Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #38

Contents

STEPHENS DOES SIMONE…VERY WELL

ACTING COACH TO THE STARS PUTS IT DOWN IN PRINT

KAY BOURNE TO GIVE HISTORICAL TALK

ROWELL’S BOOK IS RIVITING

VINTAGE AILEY NEVER DISAPPOINTS

BULLINS CONTINUES SEASON WITH STRONG WOMEN

HOPKINS’ FRACTURE IS A GOOD THING

UP-COMING EVENTS


STEPHENS DOES SIMONE…VERY WELL

by Kay Bourne

(Pictured: Valerie Stephens and band live at the Piano Factory)

5b626286af9af88039e4cb5c40c02b35.84.124 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #38Vocalist Valerie Stephens gave a full house at the Gallery at the Piano Craft Building a sensational night of all Nina Simone songs, Friday, APRIL 27. She ascended the pianist/singer’s peaks of lyricism, and at other times Stephens got down with the fury of a Nina Simone outraged by the cruelties and injustice of racist America.

Stephens recently was tapped as Best Blues Singer by the Urban Music Awards, however, on this night she was as comfortable with Bess’s confessional “Porgy,” a jazz classic from Gershwin, as with the Bessie Smith standard “Sugar in My Bowl.”

Simone was very much the griot as amply evidenced in original compositions such as “Four Women.” And Stephens, who is also an eloquent storyteller, was in her element with the powerful lyrics that etch portraits of four black women. Their skin tones vary from black to yellow, to tan, to brown, but their societal inflicted pain and anger (and also their personal strength) binds them together as sisters, as does Stephens’ interpretation binds her to Nina Simone.

There were lighthearted moments too, as when Stephens sang the bubbly “My Baby Just Cares For Me” as exquisitely as Bobby Short at the Carlyle.

In May of 1964, very close to Lorraine Hansberry‘s death from cancer at age 34, the playwright gave a speech to the winners of an essay contest run by the United Negro College Fund. She encouraged them, you who are “young, gifted, and black,” to write about the world as it is and as they wished it to become. Some five years later Nina Simone, a close friend of the author, wrote the song that black youth have taken to their hearts as an anthem of possibilities, “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.” Appropriately, Stephens sang the beloved song holding her infant niece Jade Simone (named in part for Nina Simone).

What a rare night in annals of Boston jazz! Valerie was magnificently accompanied by Yoron Israel on drums, Lenny Bradford on bass, Vicente LeBron on percussion, and the maestro Frank Wilkins, who had done many of the arrangements, at the piano and directing the music. Stephens produced the night which has already been booked for the CMAC Summer Outdoor Concert Series.


ACTING COACH TO THE STARS PUTS IT DOWN IN PRINT

by Kay Bourne

(click book cover image to the left, for more info)

e598d7218e4032b35743ffa296ff53f3.124.124 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #38 When Susan Batson was starring in a drama bound for Broadway (and getting rave notices), the role was taken away from her. Batson, now a celebrated acting coach, writes about the traumatic experience in her excellent handbook on acting, “TRUTH/ Personas, Needs, And Flaws In The Art Of Building Actors And Creating Characters” (Rugged Land, 2007).

One of Batson‘s famous students Nicole Kidman, who credits work with Batson as instrumental in her Oscar winning performance in “The Hours,” has written the introduction. Of special interest to Bostonians, is that Batson grew up in Roxbury, the daughter of Ruth Batson, a fiery activist in the school desegregation movement and, later, a member of a successful take over of a local major TV station.

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