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You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2011-12 Reviews Concert Review: ETHEL WATERS: BLUES, BROADWAY AND JAZZ
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 14:36


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Michael Feinstein Hosts Ethel Waters: Blues, Broadway, and Jazz Michael Feinstein Hosts Ethel Waters: Blues, Broadway, and Jazz Photo: Frank Stewart
Jazz at Lincoln Center has brought back their wildly popular “Jazz and Popular Song” series curated by the master of the American songbook, Michael Feinstein.    The first of this year's series was dedicated to music made popular by Broadway and film star, Ethel Waters, Ethel Waters: Blues, Broadway, and Jazz.  Feinstein has made the evening more than just songs.  He has added biographical details and stories of Water's hardscrabble upbringing, being the result of her mother's rape at the age of 13 and her own abusive marriage at the age of 13, to make the evening a well-rounded look at the life of an African-American trailblazer. 

Featured last evening were three talented ladies of stage and screen, Adriane Lenox, Catherine Russell, and Tracie Thoms.  They took turns interpreting many of Ms. Water’s most famous songs.

Catherine Russell, who only recently performed in a solo show for Jazz at Lincoln Center, confidently handled Hoagy Carmichael’s “Bread and Gravy,” and Irving Berlin’s “Harlem on My Mind.”  On one of Ms. Water’s signature songs, “Am I Blue,” Ms. Russell showed her ability to bend a note to her will.  Russell’s most impressive turn of the evening was with “When I’m Gone,” just an amazing performance.

Tracie Thoms (most recently seen on Broadway in Stick Fly) showed that she has a knack for song in addition to her fine acting chops (though she was in the film version of Rent).   Ms. Thoms sang “Georgia on My Mind,” “Good for Nothin’ Joe,” “Heat Wave,” and “I Must Have That Man.”  

The most impressive performance of the night belonged to Adriane Lenox.  Ms. Lenox has been seen on Broadway in Doubt, Kiss Me, Kate, and Caroline, or Change, to name a few.  Two of the songs that Ms. Lenox interpreted were character songs, “Birmingham Bertha” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.”   But her pièce de résistance was a beautiful rendition of “Stormy Weather,” another song closely associated with Ms. Waters despite Lena Horne’s later co-opting of the song.

Ethel Waters: Blues, Broadway, and Jazz will have a final performance on Wednesday, May 2 at 7:30pm.  Jazz at Lincoln Center will be presenting two more sets of concerts in the same series.  Next up is “Cy Coleman: Bringing Jazz to Broadway” May 15-16, “Sweet and Lowdown: How Jazz Standards Became Jazz Classics” June 5-6 and a family concert of “Sweet and Lowdown...” on Sunday, June 10 at 3pm.  For more information, visit their website at

For purposes of full disclosure, I am an employee of Jazz at Lincoln Center, though I always try to remain as impartial as possible.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 14:48