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LADY SINGS THE BLUES (article first published : 2003-06-5)

It's all stops out for one of Durban's busiest music directors Evan Roberts whose latest collaboration, Lady Sings the Blues starring Karen van Pletsen, opens on June 11 at the Dockyard Supper Theatre on the Point Waterfront.

The production frontlines Karen in an enticing blend of blues, jazz and swing standards that range from the 1940’s up to the contemporary scene. It marks the realisation of a longstanding plan for Evans and Karen to pool their talents in this hugely rewarding spectrum of music.

"We've been friends from way-back, and have long wanted to work together," says Evan. "In my book, Karen is the most underrated singer in the country. Most, indeed all of her frontline work - aside from big-stage musicals - has been taken abroad, on cruise liners and in prestigious jazz bars in the Middle East. I felt it was time this was put right.

"Working on Lady Sings the Blues with her I'm doing what I love most, arranging songs for a specific artist. In this case it has felt like pure luxury, working with a singer who seemingly has all the virtues - a voice to die for, a considerable vocal range, an innately musical ear, and dynamic audience pull in performance that, without exaggeration, rivals many of the greats on the music scene. Add to this a live-wire sense of curiosity and an irreverent sense of fun and you have the makings of a compelling artist who has much to say that is truly individual."

Researching the material for the show has been a labour of love for them both.

"The blues are a way of life, an example of living history, and a path of expression that began out of the mysery and hardship experienced by the African-American slaves in the Mississippi Basin," says Karen. "They reflect the strength born out of endurance, the sheer grit of coping with live at its hardest. They also grew to take in a performance tradition broadly laced with humour and risqué delivery that is irresistible."

"We have avoided being too purist in our exploration," adds Evan. "We've taken onboard some numbers that border on blues, giving them a fresh, new make-over, as well as doing some songs which bring an element of swing and hi-energy to add leaven to the soulful items."

Lady Sings the Blues salutes many of the great 20th Century icons of song - from Billy Holliday, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy and Eric Clapton, through to new-generation artists such as Robbie Williams and Diana Krall. Chosen titles include Summertime; Try a little tenderness; Miss Otis Regrets; Lady Sings the Blues; Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do; My; I Cried for You; Baby Please Don't Go; My Baby Just Cares For Me; Crazy; Birth of the Blues and God Bless The Child, among others.

Joining Evan on piano in the high-power live backing line-up are Bongani Sokhela on double bass, Ray Ebenezer on sax, Alan Judd on guitar and Shaun Petersen on drums. The show clearly aims to keep things buzzing at Durban's latest dining and entertainment hotspot overlooking the harbour mouth, which has enjoyed full houses since its opening in April. So relax over a five-star meal, then chill to what promises to be the coolest, smoothest sounds in town.

Performances Tuesdays to Sundays. Tickets R65 to R100 with a three-course meal at R75 (Tuesday and Sunday specials: R105 for show and two-course meal). Book on 031 332 1086 or through Computicket on 083 915 8000.




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