01/01/12

Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright in Newark, N.J.

Three singers mesmerize an audience with stellar performances and "The Truth"

Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright mesmerized an audience at Newark, N.J.’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center with their powerful, moving and entertaining voices and songs and lyrics. The three vocalists have been touring with a show they call “Sing the Truth,” and while one might assume the three might attempt to steal the stage from one another, the contrary happened: each complemented the other two wonderfully.

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Jessica Webster Sendra

Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright at 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival

That they bonded on many levels is almost an understatement, and pianist Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, guitarist Romero Lubamdo, bassist James Genus and percussionist Daryl “Munyungo” Jackson were crucial additions to the music.

The strength and conviction of Benin native Kidjo are outstanding. Kidjo is not only a highly talented singer, but also a political activist, a warm human being who sends out messages of love, hope and change. In addition to her singing and other vocalizations, she danced and talked about peace, equality and respect. “Sing the Truth” paid homage, for the last time of the year, to fellow singers Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln (“What You Have Belongs to You”), Tracy Chapman (“Revolution”) and Odetta. The performance was characterized by a blend of African tradition (Kidjo), soul, pop and gospel (Wright), and jazz (Reeves).

Each song was imbued with a variety of emotions, and the words chosen by the singers—sometimes sang, sometimes simply spoken (Reeves and Kidjo in particular like to tell stories), resonated with the audience. Kidjo at one point left the stage to walk and sing among the crowd. Reeves talked about how she feels empowered by her family. Her pitch glided from high to low as she delivered her messages of love. Kidjo, a playful, colorful and funny entertainer, spoke of having to do Christmas shopping for 19 nephews, but added that she decided she just had to “suck it up.”

These three singers encourage expression among their audience, and that might be a sign of their real talent and real artistry, in addition to the way they make a room full of people cry, shiver, laugh and dream together.

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