Thursday, October 28, 2010

Joey Arias Pays Tribute to Billie Holliday in Strange Fruit and a look at his new film, Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy, Seattle, Oct., 2010

Joey Arias Pays Tribute to Billie Holliday in Strange Fruit at the Triple Door and Arias’ New Film, Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy

Joey Arias, Strange Fruit, Triple Door, Seattle, October 12th, 2010

Arias With A Twist: The Docufantasy, Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, October 16th, 2010

By E. Joyce Glasgow

All Photo Credits/Copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow

Joey Arias is a cause célèbre. How many of us can say that the New York Times has written about our birthday party? Or that we have performed with Cirque du Soleil and David Bowie, or have a new film out that was featured in this year’s Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, or that we’ve traveled around the world, performing in an innovative puppet show?
Event producer and burlesque artist, Paula the Swedish Housewife, presented Joey Arias on October 12th, 2010, at the Triple Door, in Seattle. Arias is a natural jazz singer. Even if he wasn’t deftly encapsulating the aura of the great Billie Holliday in his trademark homage to her, Strange Fruit, he could otherwise very successfully perform in the jazz idiom. His natural musicality, timing, connection to rhythm, emotional interpretations, playfulness and ease of communicating with his audience are delightful qualities.
Arias, who generously performed a two hour show, without intermission, to a wildly enthusiastic, sold out house, was accompanied by an especially fine quartet, with seasoned Seattle locals, Craig Flory, tenor saxophone, Geoff Harper, bass and Denali Williams, drums. His pianist, Elliot Douglass, is a spectacular jazz pianist, whose playing is lush, beautiful, distinctive and ably sets the mood, whether a ballad or swing tune and he knows how to enhance the singer’s performance, supporting full expression. I was blown away by his amazing playing and wondered why I had never heard him before, the reason being that Cirque du Soleil has captured this gem of a musician for one of their Las Vegas shows, where he has been performing, sequestered from all but the lucky Las Vegas audiences, for the past seven years. Arias performed for six years with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas also, as Mistress of Seduction, in their erotic show, Zumanity and only rarely gets to perform with Douglass now, which was our very special treat to hear. Their musical interaction is a joy to listen to. The group performed a nice variety of songs which kept the set rolling along, interspersed with Arias’ wonderful comic remarks and light hearted, sometimes blue and blatantly suggestive banter with audience members. Arias in one moment is an elegant, graceful diva, striding across the stage and then in the next moment, during his stage patter, may be making a sudden, sexually shocking remark, or casually throwing a surprising insult or four letter word at an audience member. But, uncannily, he has such a warm heart and offers up his tossed off, biting, comic remarks with such endearment, that the audience takes it all with laughter and good humor.
Arias wore an incredible, 1950’s style, form fitting woman’s suit, with a short, very synched waist jacket and long pencil skirt, in a burnished, coppery gold brocade that fit like a glove and looked beautiful on him. A friend in New York made it for him and it was patterned after Kim Novak’s dress from Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Vertigo. Throughout his performance, he wore very high, black stiletto heels, with his hair in a braid on top of his head, ultra short bangs and smoldering, dramatic eye make up, blood red lips and black, fingerless gloves. Arias entertained with two outrageous costume changes, first shedding his Kim Novak suit to reveal almost everything, returning to the stage, looking like a benign dominatrix, in a strategic black bra and "landing strip" and a flesh fishnet body suit, with a black corset, strutting comfortably and sexily around the stage. For his last two numbers, he reminded me of Gloria Swanson and appeared very operatic, donned in a floor length, trailing, black flowing coat, with ground length, leopard lined sleeves. Arias playfully wandered through the audience in his fishnet bodysuit and acknowledged and embraced performer friends who were there, including Teatro Zinzanni favorite, El Vez.
Arias channeled iconic, Billie Holliday songs, with a voice that was primarily his own, gravely, husky and expressive, but also with a good dose of Holiday’s special, unique sound in it. He sang Them There Eyes, Don’t Explain, God Bless the Child, Lover Come Back To Me, I Cover the Waterfront, Do Right, Easy Living, All of Me, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, as well as The Look of Love. Elliot Douglass' superb musicianship was showcased in a beautiful, solo performance of I Hear Music, on the piano. Arias and Douglass did a powerful and sobering duo version of Holliday’s, Strange Fruit, written by her, in response to the horror of the lynching of African-Americans. Arias prefaced the song by commenting (I paraphrase) that he felt the song also applies to Gay Rights and that all people should be able to live and be who they are without fear. He closed out the set with an encore of his own lively, original song, What a Feeling.
A few days later, on October 16th, Arias’ new film, Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy, was shown as part of the 15th Annual Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, at the Egyptian Theatre, with Arias and the director, Bobby Sheehan, in attendance to answer questions afterwards. This film is a look into Arias’ history in the New York performance art world culminating in his recent collaborative puppet show with Basil Twist, a third generation puppeteer working in New York, who is also one of the best and most innovative puppeteers on the planet. I saw their live show, Arias With a Twist, in its original production, at the Here Arts Center, in New York City and it was charming, inventive, whimsical, funny and wonderfully creative. It has been traveling around the world and in the film we see some performance scenes, rehearsals and backstage preparations, as well as comments from Arias and Twist. Arias is hoping to bring it to Seattle and if it does come here, I highly recommend going to see it. It is fantastic! The docufantasy also enlightened me to parts of Joey Arias’ history that I knew little about. There are a number of wonderful interviews with long time Arias’ associates in the theatre, art, fashion, and performance worlds, who all came together to contribute to a very fertile, intensely creative, colorful, outrageous, underground performance art scene in a period of New York history, along with footage of his performances with David Bowie and others. The film addresses the devastating effects of the original AIDS epidemic on the arts and performance worlds of New York City, when Arias was forced to face the trauma of loosing his lover and many of his close friends, including Klaus Nomi and Keith Haring, to AIDS, many dying within a matter of months, weeks, or days.
Joey Arias is an incredible artist, a talented individual and a real showman. He has a big heart and a great generosity of spirit. He clearly loves people and what he does, embracing his audiences and warmly giving of himself one hundred and fifty percent.
To learn more about Joey Arias visit To see the upcoming schedule at the Triple Door visit To find out about Paula the Swedish Housewife’s upcoming productions visit For information on the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival visit For information on puppeteer, Basil Twist visit For information on upcoming performances at the Here Arts Center in New York City, visit

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

British Jazz Vocalist, Anita Wardell, A Joyful Singer

British Jazz Vocalist, Anita Wardell, A Joyful Singer

Anita Wardell, House Concerts, Auburn WA, October 15th, Camano Island, WA, October 17th, 2010

By E. Joyce Glasgow

All Photo Credits/Copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow

British Jazz vocalist, Anita Wardell, has loved singing jazz tunes since she was a teenager and has been performing since age 19. Her ease with and love of music comes forth in a joyful outpouring in performance and as an audience member, I couldn’t help but smile, along with her, feeling that joy during a performance I attended, as part of the house concert series.

Singing with Seattle jazz pianist, Bill Anschell, at the grand piano, at Patty and Andy Carr’s lovely home on Camano Island, Wardell charmed her intimate, living room audience with a variety of jazz standards. Her voice is smooth, pleasing and expressive and her natural musicality, sense of time, rhythm, appealing, open style, vulnerability and comfortable relationship with the lyrics, are exactly right for the interpretation of jazz tunes. She has a flowing capacity for improvisational scat singing, as was evident in her upbeat performance of Gershwin’s, But Not For Me and during East of the Sun and when joined by jazzvox producer and Seattle area jazz vocalist, Nich Anderson, on a lively, vocally interactive version of Autumn Leaves.

Wardell, who spent a number of years living in Australia, performs internationally and regularly in London, England, where she now lives. She won the prestigious BBC Award for Best of Jazz, in 2006.

She incorporates Vocalese into a number of her songs. This is a jazz form in which the singer applies lyrics to original instrumentations or to what have been the specific instrumental solos that musicians have played during tunes on recordings. Jazz singers Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Manhattan Transfer and Kurt Elling, are probably the most well known for their performance of Vocalese. Wardell sang vocalese versions of the solos of Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster on Duke Ellington’s catchy, In a Mellow Tone and a fast and complex vocalese of a Stan Getz solo on Don’t Get Scared.

The program included It Might as Well be Spring, from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, State Fair; Reaching for the Moon, a song originally performed by both Carmen McCrea and Billie Holliday; Flor de Lis, a Brazilian tune, in Portuguese; Willow Weep for Me and a great, ballad version of The Meaning of the Blues.

The highlight of Anita Wardell’s performance was her beautiful, dreamy, slow version of Duke Ellington’s, In My Solitude, with an especially lovely solo by Bill Anschell on the piano. It was probably one of the best interpretations of that song that I have ever heard. Wardell really tapped into the meaning and simple, subtle beauty of the composition.

The Jazzvox jazz vocalist house concert series continues through the year in homes in Auburn, WA. and Camano Island, WA. The homes accommodate an intimate audience of about thirty each. Producer/vocalist Nich Anderson started this project to bring some of his favorite jazz vocalists to perform in the Seattle area and has chosen outlying venues to make it easier to reach and encourage jazz audiences in their own towns and who may live far enough out to not be able to regularly attend concerts in Seattle. Excellent chef, Patty Carr, prepares delicious, homemade food and it is just like being at a wonderful party. For vocal jazz lovers it is a really great find and a wonderful value at a thirty-dollar donation for a concert, with dinner included. At Wardell’s Camano concert, Carr prepared fresh mushroom soup and chicken meatball soup with orzo, as well as a rich, pumpkin cheesecake and ginger, lemon cream cookies.

Upcoming Jazzvox concerts include Roseanna Vitro, with Mark Soskin, piano on November 12th and 13th, 2010 and Kate McGarry, one of my favorites, with her husband, Keith Ganz, on guitar, on December 10th and 11th, 2010. To learn more about Jazzvox concerts and to hear musical samples of the artists, visit To learn more about vocalist, Anita Wardell and her six available CD’s visit

On the way home from the Camano Island concert, we stopped in Stanwood, WA, to meet and visit with Ed Beeson, in his new restaurant/cafe/performance venue, the Blackbird Bakery Café. Beeson has had an impressive and seasoned career in performance production, having owned the popular, Backstage, in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, for a number of years and also was in charge of performance programming for the Bumbershoot Festival for some time. He plans to present an exciting variety of performance, arts and other community events at the Blackbird. Keep your eyes open for what’s going on at this great new venue. Visit

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Lee Konitz New Quartet, Triple Door, Seattle, Wa., October 5th, 2010

The Lee Konitz New Quartet at the Triple Door

By E. Joyce Glasgow

All Photo Credits/ Copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow

Legendary jazz alto saxophonist/composer, Lee Konitz, brought his New Quartet to Seattle for one show on October 5th, presented by Earshot Jazz, at the Triple Door.

Konitz, who turned 83 on October 13th, was joined by young musicians Florian Weber, piano, Jeff Denson, bass and Ziv Ravitz, drums, the three of whom have been playing together as the trio, Minsarah, (Prism, in Hebrew), since 2000, when they met during their studies at the Berklee College of Music, in Boston.

For the serious and discerning jazz listener, this concert was the ultimate in satisfaction. The four musicians were intense and concentrated in listening to each other, leaving a lot of space for natural and organically flowing musical exploration and took familiar jazz standards and deconstructed and reconstructed them, with integrity and musical intelligence, intuitively creating something new and refreshing, while maintaining the melodic structures of the original tunes. It sounded like they were rearranging puzzle pieces of compositions into brand new puzzles, still recognizable, but reborn.

Each of the four democratically took turns starting out tunes, allowing for the individual’s personality and musical expression to set a tone and mood for each particular piece, Konitz, whose alto sax sound is wise, reedy, husky and evocative, took the first turn, starting out the evening with the classic, jazz tune, Solar. Pianist, Weber, began the second piece, abstractly, alone at the piano. This metamorphosised easily into What is this Thing Called Love, which was thoughtful and reflective and both stimulating and relaxing. The musicians went into abstraction again, which led into the great ballad, Body and Soul. It was an enjoyable journey, just floating along with the musicians and their musical road map. Bassist, Denson, led the next piece, drifting into Alone Together. Konitz sang a short, wordless vocal on this and the instruments flowed in and out, like a dream, and then grew more raucous, robust and swinging. Drummer, Ravitz, led the fourth tune, Stella by Starlight, starting with just the duo of piano and drums, emphasizing the cymbals. The sound was spare, pure and uncluttered and the group’s artistic creation had room to move and breathe. The song, What’s New? followed , dark, deep and moody. The quartet played a wonderfully original version of the often heard, Cherokee, as an encore and received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the concert.

The whole concert was played acoustically, which I was incredibly grateful for and allowed the music to be heard in its integrity, without amplification The atmosphere created was intimate and concentrated as the whole audience was seated very close to the stage and you could hear a pin drop as the audience was engaged in conscientious listening, along with the musicians, allowing for a complete sense of participation by all in the immediate experience of the evening. In a world where everything is amplified and we are daily bombarded by noise and distraction and competition to be heard over other loud noises, this acoustic concert was an oasis in a desert of chaos and a very special event. This was one of the best jazz concerts I’ve heard in a long time.

For more information about the Lee Konitz New Quartet visit: For more information about upcoming Earshot Jazz events, including the continuing 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival visit: For the current events calendar for the Triple Door visit:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nearly Dan (Steely Dan Tribute Band) with Special Guest, Tom Scott, at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, Seattle, Wa., October 5th & 6th, 2010

By E. Joyce Glasgow

All Photo Credits/Copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow

Nearly Dan, Seattle’s own fourteen piece Steely Dan Tribute band, performed for two sold out nights at the Jazz Alley, with stellar saxophonist/composer/ arranger/conductor, Tom Scott, as special guest.

Tom Scott arranged many of the sophisticated, catchy and memorable horn arrangements heard on Steely Dan recordings, as well as playing many of the featured saxophone solos. Scott has had a distinguished career, winning three Grammy Awards, been nominated for thirteen, has written numerous scores for film and television and has played and recorded through the years, as a leader, with his own band and with a who’s who list of top and varied musicians including, Joni Mitchell, Barbra Streisand, The Grateful Dead, Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd, The Carpenters, Whitney Houston, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, The Blues Brothers, Blondie, Kenny Chesney and Quincy Jones.

Nearly Dan is a highly dynamic and accomplished group of nationally prominent instrumentalists and vocalists, based in Seattle. The band is made up of horns, keyboard, drums, guitars, bass, four back up vocalists and one lead vocalist, Galen Green, who sounds, uncannily, like Donald Fagin. Their performances are energetic, tight and joyful and they successfully convey and engage their audiences with the infectious rhythms, melodies, harmonies, unusual lyrics, unique and sophisticated musical arrangements and lushness of Steely Dan’s music, with ease, enjoyment and a high key spirit. The musically seasoned group members come from varied backgrounds, including jazz, rhythm & blues, rock, country, fusion and swing.

The band played eleven Steely Dan tunes, on most of which were joined by Tom Scott, and the evening’s performance included such popular hits as Deacon Blues, Black Cow, Reelin’ in the Years, Peg, Babylon Sister, Gaucho, Kid Charlemagne, Nearly Dan’s own original Latin arrangement of Get Back Jack, a horn based, instrumental version of Maxine, My Old School and an encore of Aja. Tom Scott contributed three of his original tunes to the performance; Apple Juice, Breezin’ Easy and the especially funky, Street Beat.

To find out more about Nearly Dan, visit To learn more about Tom Scott, visit To see the up coming schedule for Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, visit