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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Janine's Just Right for Christopher's

Live Music Nation


As far as birthing legends go, Tuesday night at Christopher’s Jazz Café was pretty much true to form. Janine Cunningham came into the venue pretty much unheralded – except, of course, for those who had checked Griot Music’s raves online and verbally – but left the room pretty much a conqueror. Her voice, sinuously insistent to match her frame and her gently cascading locks, was key to the victory. It’s a voice which has refracted the divas of jazz past – most notably Billie Holiday – through a prism of modern expression, be it rock or dancehall.
Janine took the enthusiastic and (surpisingly) large audience on a musical cross-country, dipping into classic balladry (Dinah Washington’s What A Difference A Day Makes), roots reggae (a slowed-down version of Marley’s So Much Trouble) and great pop (Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror) in addition to her stirring and provocative originals, including “Warning” and the kiss-off “Parasite”. This latter has radio potential, its caustic lyrics being delivered in her sultry drawl, thus heightening the inherent tensions.
There was also a soaring, yet stripped down version of India.arie’s “Brown Skin” in which her presentation was ably supported (indeed enhanced) by her musical cohorts: Sheldon Bernard on flute; Luke Dixon on piano/keyboard; Obed Davis on drums; Keino on bass and Seretse Small on guitars. Cunningham saved another highlight for her encore, a near-delirious reading of Smokey Robinson’s classic, “Cruisin’”
The intimate setting of the urban power bar that Christopher’s proved perfectly suited for her delivery and the band remained on point throughout. That, combined with the fact that she had a capacity audience of a size worthy of her talent made the showcase (postponed previously due to the stormy weather) a September to remember.

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