Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
The Jazz Institute of Chicago and the city’s Park District teamed up in December 2012 to present this free family concert with Dee Alexander. As we air it on JazzSet a year later, Alexander is just back from performing the show in Poland where, she writes, “everyone was on their feet.”
The first half is a non-stop, 30-minute tribute to Jimi Hendrix followed by a hearty South Shore Cultural Center countdown to 2013. “Auld Lang Syne” morphs into “Ain’t It Funky Now.” See photo No. 5 in our gallery for Alexander’s costume change (“I’m wearin’ hot pants!”) for the James Brown half. As she yells to the crowd, “Everybody down here on the floor. I don’t want to dance by myself!” we have evidence of the people’s compliance in photo No. 6.
DownBeat‘s David Whiteis points out that the Evolution Arkestra is 50 percent a string ensemble “alternating between furiously picked pizzicato runs and stuttering arco groans, and occasionally joining forces to create window-rattling sonic booms. Guitarist Scott Hesse invoked Hendrix’s visionary fury by using precision, dynamic flexibility and rhythmic drive to build intensity and create music almost as riveting as anything Jimi could have summoned with his fabled high-velocity fusillades.”
In the mid-1960s, Hendrix sang a heart-stopping plea for restraint: “Hey, Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?” Alexander revisits “Hey Joe” only days after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. She cries out, “Stop the violence! Put the guns down!” It’s unforgettable.
Alexander is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Chicago magazine named her the singer of the year 2009. This past August, she sang her new show Songs My Mother Loved at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Our guest host is Toast of the Nation’s Rhonda Hamilton, and we note NPR’s Suraya Mohamed’s great post-production of the live concert for New Year’s Eve 2012. It airs with minimal changes, this week on JazzSet.
- Dee Alexander, voice
- Miguel de la Cerna, piano
- Tomeka Reid, cello
- Harrison Bankhead, bass
- Junius Paul, bass
- Scott Hesse, guitar
- Yusef Ernie Adams, percussion
Jimi Hendrix Set
- “The Star-Spangled Banner”
- “Little Wing”
- “Who Knows”
- “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire”
- “Purple Haze”
- “If Six Was Nine”
- “Hey Joe” (Billy Roberts)
- “Auld Lang Syne”
James Brown Set
- “Ain’t It Funky Now”
- “I Got the Feelin’”
- “Licking Stick”
- “Living In America”
- “Soul Power”
- “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
Timothy Powell/Metro Mobile Recording, recording and mix engineer; Dayna Calderón, field producer. Recorded at South Shore Cultural Center, Dec. 7, 2012. Special thanks to the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Lauren Deutsch and the Chicago Park District.